Leptospirosis is a neglected zoonosis with a nearly global distribution. In order to determine the role of bats in the epidemiology of leptospirosis in Nigeria, a total of 231 bats belonging to three families, Pteropodidae (n = 117), Molossidae (n = 107) and Nycteridae (n = 17), roosting in human habitats were screened by PCR and sequencing for the detection of pathogenic Leptospira species. DNA extracted from the kidneys of bats were subjected to conventional PCR targeting the rrs1, rrs2, flaB and secY genes for the detection of pathogenic Leptospira spp. Overall, 27 out of the 231 (11.7%) of the samples screened were positive for Leptospira spp. High prevalence (>80%) of Leptospira spp. DNA was detected in Chaerophon and Nycteris bat species captures in an abandoned well located within a human habitation. Sequences generated in this study were highly identical to Leptospira borgpetersenii and Leptospira interrogans and clustered with sequences of pathogenic species in GenBank. The detection of pathogenic Leptospira spp. was significantly associated (p <.001) with the bat species, feeding habit, roosting site and study location. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first molecular detection and characterization of pathogenic Leptospira spp. in bats from Nigeria. Results show that bats in Nigeria are infected with diverse Leptospira genotypes phylogenetically related to known pathogenic, including zoonotic taxa. Together, these findings reinforce bats’ roles as potential reservoirs of Leptospira spp. and should be considered as a starting point for future comparative studies to improve our understanding of the epidemiology of this bacterial pathogen in Nigeria.
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