Understanding leptospirosis eco-epidemiology by environmental DNA metabarcoding of irrigation water from two agro-ecological regions of Sri Lanka


Background:Leptospirosis is one of the most significant zoonoses across the world not only because of its impact on human and animal health but also because of the economic and social impact on agrarian communities. Leptospirosis is endemic in Sri Lanka where paddy farming activities, the use of draught animals in agriculture, and peridomestic animals in urban and rural areas play important roles in maintaining the infection cycle of pathogenic Leptospira, especially concerning animals as a potential reservoir. In this study, an environmental DNA (eDNA) metabarcoding methodology was applied in two different agro-ecological regions of Sri Lanka to understand the eco-epidemiology of leptospirosis.\nMethodology/Principal findings:Irrigation water samples were collected in Kandy District (wet zone mid-country region 2) and Girandurukotte, Badulla District (intermediate zone low-country region 2); and analysed for the presence of pathogenic Leptospira, associated microbiome and the potential reservoir animals. Briefly, we generated PCR products for high-throughput sequencing of multiple amplicons through next-generation sequencing. The analysis of eDNA showed different environmental microbiomes in both regions and a higher diversity of Leptospira species circulating in Kandy than in Girandurukotte. Moreover, the number of sequence reads of pathogenic Leptospira species associated with clinical cases such as L. interrogans was higher in Kandy than in Girandurukotte. Kandy also showed more animal species associated with pathogenic bacterial species than Girandurukotte. Finally, several pathogenic bacterial species including Arcobacter cryaerophilus, responsible for abortion in animals, was shown to be associated with pathogenic Leptospira.\nConclusions/Significance:Leptospirosis has been considered to be endemic in wet regions, consistently, leptospiral sequences were detected strongly in Kandy. The great Leptospira species diversity in Kandy observed in this study shows that the etiological agents of leptospirosis in Sri Lanka might be underestimated. Furthermore, our eDNA metabarcoding can be used to discriminate bacterial and animal species diversity in different regions and to explore environmental microbiomes to identify other associated bacterial pathogens in the environment.



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