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Leptospirosis Symptoms: What to Know About This Bacterial Infection

Leptospirosis symptoms may turn serious if they're not detected and treated in time. Here’s how traditional and Western medicine treat the condition.

Sick Asian man covered in a blanket having fever with chills.

Did you know Malaysia is endemic to leptospirosis, and thousands of cases are reported annually in the country? It’s a zoonotic disease or a disease that has transferred from animals to humans. Leptospirosis symptoms include fever, muscle pain, and headaches, which can easily be mistaken for the flu or dengue fever.  

Severe symptoms include jaundice (yellow skin and eyes) as well as red eyes and abdominal pain. Most infections are mild and symptomatic. However, a patient may sometimes end up with a disease and multisystem organ failure, which can even lead to death.  

Read on to know more about the condition and leptospirosis treatment in Western and traditional medicine. 

Leptospirosis Symptoms and Causes 

Woman wading through water with shoes in her hands.
Humans can get leptospirosis through direct or indirect contact with water that contains urine from infected animals.

Leptospirosis is caused by bacteria called Leptospira, which is present in rat urine. Humans are infected through direct contact with rat urine or indirect contact with water or soil contaminated with urine from infected animals. The bacteria enter the body by penetrating through mucus membranes or skin with abrasions and travel in the body through blood.

As Real Health Medical Senior Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) physician Brandon Yew explains, TCM holds a similar view regarding the cause of the condition. TCM believes leptospirosis results from exposure to an infectious and potent toxin from animals with the pathogenic characteristics and traits of Wind, Fire, and Dampness. Pathogenic factors such as phlegm, Blood Stasis, and Qi Stagnation, are formed, disturbing the meridian channels, disrupting qi and blood circulation, and inflicting damage on multiple organs in the body. 

Leptospirosis symptoms usually start suddenly with a fever, severe headache, muscle pain, nausea, and chills. Laboratory tests performed on a patient’s blood sample will confirm the diagnosis. 

Treatment of Leptospirosis 

Man doing acupressure on his right hand.
Acupressure is an easy self-help remedy to relieve leptospirosis symptoms.

Western medicine treatment of leptospirosis involves using antibiotics to get rid of the bacteria.

Physician Yew adds that TCM can help provide effective symptomatic relief during the acute infection stage and post-infection recovery phase. This is through herbal medication, acupuncture, cupping, scraping (gua sha), moxibustion, Chinese manual therapy (tuina), and blood-letting. A TCM physician formulates these to specifically address every individual patient’s unique body constitution, making it important to always first consult a TCM physician for proper assessment. 

Antibiotic therapy 

A doctor may prescribe oral antibiotic therapy with penicillin or doxycycline for mild cases. Depending on the severity of the condition, a patient may be admitted and given antibiotics through the intravenous route. 

Herbal remedies 

Physician Brandon recommends the following TCM herbal formulas for acute infections: 

  • Sheng Jiang San (升降散): Dispels Wind, Fire toxins, phlegm, Stagnated Qi and blood clots to relieve fever, headaches, red eyes and rash  
  • Yin Qiao San (银翘散): Dispels Wind and Fire to relieve fever, headache, chills, muscle aches, red eyes, and rash  
  • Bai Hu Tang (白虎汤): Dispels Fire to relieve high fever and headache  
  • Qing Ying Tang (清营汤): Dispels Fire and dissipates blood clots, nourishes yin to reduce fever, headache, and rash  
  • Yin Chen Hao Tang (茵陈蒿汤): Purges Fire and dispels Dampness to relieve fever, headaches, jaundice, red eyes, and rash  

The herbs recommended by Physician Yew to help with post-disease recovery are: 

  • Sheng Mai San (生脉散): Replenishes lost qi and yin energies of the Lungs and Heart 
  • Xiang Sha Liu Jun Zi Tang (香砂六君子汤): Regenerates Spleen qi and dispels residual Dampness and phlegm  
  • Qin Jiao Bie Jia San (秦艽鳖甲散): Dispels residual Fire and regenerates lost yin to nourish the Lungs, Heart, and Liver  
  • Bu Yang Huan Wu Tang (补阳还五汤): Dispels residual blood clots and regenerates qi of the Lungs, Spleen, and Heart  
  • Ba Zhen Tang (八珍汤): Replenishes lost qi and blood of the Lungs, Heart, Spleen, and Liver  


Physician Brandon also suggests acupressure to his patients, which is easily performed at home with the help of a massage stick or even your fingers. These are some acupoints he recommends:  

  • Chi ze (LU5, 尺泽): dispels Wind, Fire, and Dampness to relieve fever, headache, and rash; revitalises the Lungs.  
  • Qu chi (LI11, 曲池): Dispels Wind, Fire, and Dampness to relieve fever, headache, chills, body aches, red eyes, abdominal pain, diarrhoea, and rash.  
  • He gu (LI4, 合谷): Dispels Wind, Fire, Dampness, and blood clots to relieve fever, headache, chills, body aches, red eyes, abdominal pain, diarrhoea, and rash.  
  • Wai guan (SJ5, 外关): Dispels Wind and Fire to relieve fever, headache, chills, body aches, and red eyes.  
  • Nei guan (PC6, 內关): Dissipates Fire and blood clots to relieve fever, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhoea, and rash; revitalises the Heart.  
  • Jing men (GB25, 京门): Dispels Dampness, phlegm, and Stagnated Qi to relieve jaundice, abdominal pain, and diarrhoea.  
  • Zhong wan (RN12, 中脘): Dispels Dampness, phlegm, and Stagnated Qi to relieve vomiting, jaundice, abdominal pain, and diarrhoea; strengthens the stomach and Spleen. 

Physician Yew recommends acupuncture through a licensed TCM practitioner as it is much more effective than acupressure

Leptospirosis symptoms can rapidly worsen if not treated in time. So, if you suspect that you have the condition, consult a medical doctor promptly before speaking to a TCM physician for suitable complementary treatment. Be assured that there are efficient treatments for it in Western and Traditional medicines.


  1. Current Topics in Microbiology and Immunology. 2014. Leptospirosis in Humans. [online] Available at: https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-662-45059-8_5 [Accessed on 21 September 2022]
  1. Acta Tropica. 2020. Leptospirosis: Increasing importance in developing countries. [online] Available at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0001706X19303705, [Accessed on 21 September 2022]
  1. Scielo Brazil. 2018. Pathology and pathogenesis of human leptospirosis: A commented review. [online] Available at: https://www.scielo.br/j/rimtsp/a/MhPBFRmcXR6RsCrxM5HjyPJ/?format=html&lang=en, [Accessed on 21 September 2022]

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