National leptospirosis service

The National Leptospirosis Service (NLS) is the national laboratory reference centre for the diagnosis of leptospira infections.


From 1 April 2015, a new combined clinical diagnostic and reference leptospirosis service is being provided by the National Leptospirosis Service (NLS).

This replaces the service previously provided by the Leptospira Reference Unit (LRU), Hereford, which was discontinued on 31 March 2015.

Service overview

The NLS offers a coordinated approach to patient centred diagnostics across 2 sites:

The single port of entry for testing and clinical information will be at RIPL.

Clinical advice

RIPL clinical staff are available to discuss cases with medical professionals during working hours.

Where clinically appropriate, clinical advice is available out of normal working hours by contacting either the on-call RIPL consultant or the Imported Fever Service (IFS).

There is no clinic at Public Health England Porton, and we are unable to see patients or give phone advice direct to members of the public.

Diagnostic tests

The leptospirosis clinical diagnostic service is provided by the Rare and Imported Pathogens Laboratory (RIPL) at PHE Porton.

Leptospirosis is diagnosed by either:

  • PCR in the acute stage of infection (within 5 days of symptoms onset)
  • serological assays (ELISA or MAT) later in illness

A full diagnostic service consisting of PCR and ELISA testing is provided 5 days a week during normal working hours (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm). In addition the PCR service may be available at weekends, if deemed urgent following discussion with a RIPL Consultant.

Confirmatory tests

Upon referral of samples from RIPL Porton, the BRD unit (Colindale) will perform the microscopic agglutination test (MAT). The MAT is the current international gold standard serology test for the detection of agglutinating antibodies that may be present from 5 days after the onset of disease. It is necessary to examine at least 2 serum specimens taken at least 7 days apart. The majority of leptospirosis cases are identified through MAT serology.

Multilocus sequence typing (MLST) will be performed on clinical samples that have tested PCR positive.

Send all diagnostic and confirmatory samples to RIPL with a completed leptospirosis request form.

User manuals

See the Rare and Imported Pathogens Laboratory (RIPL) user manual.

See the Bacteriology Reference Department (BRD) user manual.


Rare and imported pathogens laboratory (RIPL)

Public Health England
Manor Farm Road
Porton Down

Bacteriology reference department (BRD)

Public Health England
61 Colindale Avenue

Published 5 July 2012
Last updated 1 June 2018 + show all updates
  1. Process changed for confirmatory tests for PCR positive.

  2. Updated guidance.

  3. First published.