Award details

22-ICRAD Call 2 Comparative host and species-specific immune responses of macrophages infected with zoonotic Leptospira interrogans

Principal Investigator / Supervisor Professor Dirk Werling
Co-Investigators /
Institution Royal Veterinary College
DepartmentPathobiology and Population Sciences
Funding typeResearch
Value (£) 307,623
TypeResearch Grant
Start date 01/06/2023
End date 31/05/2025
Duration24 months


We aim in this innovative project to address the question of host- and species-specificity of leptospirosis, from an innate immunity point of view. We will test the hypothesis that host adaptation of leptospires relies on the species specificities of both bacterial components and host innate immune receptors. To the best of our knowledge this hypothesis has never been formulated. Our consortium will study, using different complementary approaches, these interactions in the context of different hosts and leptospiral serovars. It will expand the fragmented knowledge, mainly obtained from mice and humans, to bovine, pigs, hamsters, rats and horses, presenting a large array of clinical symptoms of leptospirosis. Moreover, the known data only emanates from a few emblematic Leptospira strains grown in vitro, all isolated from human patients and sometimes passaged in hamster. Here, we will expand the study to Argentinian strains retrieved from cattle. We also aim to get physiologic data, by directly studying at the mRNA expression level, or at a structural level, the bacterial components in contact of primary macrophages from relevant hosts. The quality of the consortium relies on previous achievements of the PIs, all internationally recognized experts in their field, and to our complementarity. We think that this project in line with the "One health" approach will bring novel data on the relationship of Leptospira with their hosts. We hope that it could also shed light on the diverse symptoms of leptospirosis observed in various animals. Finally, this project could set the basis of new perspectives of host-directed strategies to stimulate the innate immune system and fight leptospirosis and overcome the potent strategies of leptospires to escape the host defenses.


The "One Health" concept recognizes that human, animal, and environment health are closely interrelated. Leptospira interrogans are the causative bacterial agent of leptospirosis, an emerging zoonotic disease affecting humans and animals, worldwide. Pathogenic leptospires present in the environment can infect a broad range of hosts and the disease may appear as an acute, even fatal infection in accidental hosts, such as humans or livestock, or progress into a chronic, mainly asymptomatic infection in its natural hosts, such as mice and rats. In cattle, leptospirosis is responsible for high economic losses due to reduction in both, dairy and beef industry, and to high abortion rates.To improve on this, it is imperative to understand the innate immune responses elicited in different hosts, as this is key to understand the diverse disease outcomes seen in the different hosts. Many immunological experiments conducted in mice have allowed the understanding of some aspects of the immune responses during leptospirosis. However, our recent work has shown clear differences in the response seen in other mammalian hosts such as human and cattle. In this proposal we aim to apply a comparative analysis of the innate immune responses elicited by macrophages from divergent hosts such as bovines, pigs, mice, hamsters, and humans upon infection with various zoonotic Leptospira strains that were responsible for distinct outcomes of disease. The goal of this project will be to understand differential and specific immunological processes and pathways. More specifically, we aim to compare some Toll-like receptors recognition of membrane components of leptospires, using structural, biochemical, genomic, immunological, high content screening confocal microscopy and computational modelling approaches. This project should help to better understand the innate immune mechanisms driving host specificities of leptospirosis, and accordingly tailor host directed intervention strategies.
Committee Not funded via Committee
Research TopicsX – not assigned to a current Research Topic
Research PriorityX – Research Priority information not available
Research Initiative ICRAD One health approaches to zoonoses [2022]
Funding SchemeX – not Funded via a specific Funding Scheme
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