Treating leptospirosis  

Leptospirosis is usually treated with a course of antibiotics, although their effectiveness has not been conclusively proven.

Most cases of leptospirosis are mild and are treated with a five to seven-day course of antibiotic tablets. Penicillin or a tetracycline antibiotic called doxycycline are the preferred choices.

It's important to finish the course of antibiotics, even if you are feeling better. This is because stopping treatment before all of the bacteria have been killed may trigger the infection to return.

Painkillers such as paracetamol and ibuprofen are available over the counter and can be used to help relieve symptoms such as a headache, a high temperature, and muscle pain.

Severe leptospirosis

If you develop a more severe leptospirosis infection, you will need to be admitted to hospital. The underlying infection will be treated with antibiotics injected directly into the bloodstream (intravenously).

If your organs have been damaged, the functions of your body may need to be supported. For example, you may need:

  • a ventilator to assist your breathing
  • dialysis, where the functions of your kidneys are artificially replicated by removing waste materials from your blood
  • intravenous fluids to restore the fluids and nutrients in your body

Some people may be well enough to leave hospital within a few weeks, while others may require several months of hospital care. It depends on how well you respond to antibiotics and the extent of any organ damage.

Leptospirosis and pregnancy

It's difficult to predict how a leptospirosis infection will affect pregnancy. In some cases, the infection can spread to the unborn child and be fatal.

If you develop the symptoms of leptospirosis during pregnancy (even mild symptoms), you may be admitted to hospital so you can be monitored.

Page last reviewed: 12/11/2014

Next review due: 12/11/2016