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Leptospirosis Presenting with Rapidly Progressing Acute Renal Failure and Conjugated Hyperbilirubinemia: A Case Report

Challenging differential diagnosis, Diagnostic / therapeutic accidents, Rare disease, Educational Purpose (only if useful for a systematic review or synthesis)

Pallavi Pothuri, Keerat Ahuja, Viki Kumar, Sham Lal, Taisiya Tumarinson, Khalid Mahmood

Department of Internal Medicine, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, Queens Hospital Center, New York, NY, USA

Am J Case Rep 2016; 17:567-569

DOI: 10.12659/AJCR.897741

Available online:

Published: 2016-08-10

BACKGROUND: Unexplained renal insufficiency combined with hepatic failure is a common problem encountered by clinicians. As with many disease processes involving multi-organ systems, reversible causes are usually not readily identifiable, and for many patients their health deteriorates rapidly.
We present a rare cause of acute renal failure and hyperbilirubinemia occurring simultaneously, with leptospirosis presenting as Weil’s disease.
CASE REPORT: A 53-year-old male presented to our clinic with complaints of anuria over the past two days. His symptoms started with dark urine, severe cramps in the thighs, and chills. The patient was a visitor to the United States from Guyana. Positive physical examination findings included mild tachycardia and hypotension, scleral icterus, and tenderness over abdomen, costovertebral angles, and thighs. The patient had a high white blood cell count, thrombocytopenia, renal/hepatic insufficiency, and an urinary tract infection (UTI). The patient was initially treated under the suspicion of acute kidney injury secondary to rhabdomyolysis and pyelonephritis. The patient continued to deteriorate with decreasing platelet counts, worsening renal function, hyperbilirubinemia, and respiratory distress, with no improvement with hemodialysis. Broad-spectrum antibiotics were administered, including doxycycline, due to a high suspicion of leptospirosis. The patient’s condition drastically improved after initiation of doxycycline. On subsequent days, the patient’s Leptospira antibody results were available, showing titers of more than 1:3200. Hemodialysis was discontinued as the patient started producing urine with improved kidney function.
CONCLUSIONS: As world travel becomes more economically feasible, we will continue to encounter foreign endemic diseases. Leptospirosis presenting as Weil’s disease is a common cause of renal and hyperbilirubinemia in endemic areas. Often, as was the case for our patient where the time from presentation to acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) was 72 hours, the diagnosis evolves over the course of several days. Antibody testing often takes time and delays in treatment can cause rapid clinical deterioration. In such cases, we recommend beginning empiric treatment before confirmation of laboratory tests.

Keywords: Humans, Acute Kidney Injury - microbiology, Hyperbilirubinemia - microbiology, Male, Middle Aged, Weil Disease - drug therapy