Background: Leptospirosis is a neglected zoonosis affecting animals and humans caused by infection with Leptospira. The bacteria can survive outside of hosts for long periods of time in soil and water. While identification of Leptospira species from human cases and animal reservoirs are increasingly reported, little is known about the diversity of pathogenic Leptospira species in the environment and how surveillance of the environment might be used for monitoring and controlling disease. Methods and Findings: Water samples (n = 104) were collected from the peri-domestic environment of 422 households from farms, rural villages, and urban slums participating in a broader study on the eco-epidemiology of leptospirosis in the Los Rios Region, Chile, between October 2010 and April 2012. The secY region of samples, previously detected as pathogenic Leptospira by PCR, was amplified and sequenced. Sequences were aligned using ClustalW in MEGA, and a minimum spanning tree was created in PHYLOViZ using the goeBURST algorithm to assess sequence similarity. Sequences from four clinical isolates, 17 rodents, and 20 reference strains were also included in the analysis. Overall, water samples contained L. interrogans, L. kirschneri, and L. weilii, with descending frequency. All species were found in each community type. The distribution of the species differed by the season in which the water samples were obtained. There was no evidence that community-level prevalence of Leptospira in dogs, rodents, or livestock influenced pathogen diversity in the water samples. Conclusions: This study reports the presence of pathogenic Leptospira in the peri-domestic environment of households in three community types and the differences in Leptospira diversity at the community level. Systematic environmental surveillance of Leptospira can be used for detecting changes in pathogen diversity and to identify and monitor contaminated areas where an increased risk of human infection exists.
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© 2016 Mason et al.