The cells of Leptospira are solitary curved spirals, 6-20 micrometers in size or longer, 0.1 micrometers in diameter, 0.2-0.3 micrometers of the helix in diameter, and 0.3-0.5 micrometers in pitch. One or both ends may be bent, approximately at right angles or hooks to the long axis. The bacterium moves by axonfilaments, which contain axistyles, which are analogs of axistyle. The bacterium's motions fall into three categories: lateral rotation in either direction of the long axis; rapid rotation or swinging around the long axis; or flexion motion. Leptospiras can static for a while, during which time a tight helical shape, much like a small piece of rope, is usually visible, and its shape and size can also be seen if it has a hook. In liquid environments the transfer follows a straight or slightly curved route; but in dry environments (eg, semi-solid agar) the transfer route is usually curved or serpentine. Various shapes can be created when an organism with a hook at the end is rapidly rotated about its long axis. When Leptospira is in stationary phase or encounters obstacles, the cell can spontaneously buckle; this is common when transferred to viscous medium; when it is vigorous, this situation is related to the transection of the organism Splits are also relevant. Not easily seen with Giemsa stain or Gram-reaction slides. It can be visualized by silver dip staining, but the bacteria shape is often distorted. Electron microscope showed that Leptospira is composed of cell body and surrounding axial hairs, and the two parts are covered by an outer sheath. The cross-section of the cell body is almost circular. Nuclear material, cytoplasm and a defined cytoplasmic membrane can be distinguished from each other. Axistyle seems to be a single structure with a size of about 0.01-0.02 microns. Axistyle is composed of two filaments. It is inserted into the cell at each end of the cell by means of a disc or acrosphere, and is close to the cell. The middle part is free.
Figure 1. Scanning electron micrograph of Leptospira interrogans. (From wikipedia)
Leptospira is a chemoheterotrophic bacteria that produces energy through respiration and metabolism. The terminal electron acceptors are cytochromes a, c and c1. Parasitic strain cultures require unsaturated fatty acids or the corresponding polysorbates. This need is further increased around the optimum temperature. The bacteria do not utilize saturated fatty acids when suitable unsaturated fatty acids are also present. Inorganic ammonium salts are suitable as nitrogen sources. Other minimum nutritional requirements include thiamine, vitamin B12, and various metal salts. Some strains appear to require additional, undetermined nutritional factors. Can be cultivated on a variety of media based on phosphate buffered inorganic salts. Some media need to be supplemented with 7-10% (v/v) serum-free; others are also supplemented with bovine protein, fraction V, and Tween 80, usually without rabbit serum. Supplemented serum-free at a ratio of 2-5% (V/V) to bovine protein Tween 80 medium can increase the reproduction rate of certain strains. Solid medium is not recommended for routine isolates as it is not as conducive to propagation as liquid or semi-solid medium (containing 0.2% agar, w/v).
Leptospira are strictly aerobic bacteria that utilize oxygen in the atmosphere. Its optimum temperature is 28°-30°C. It can multiply rapidly after 1-2 days of culture at 37°C. The optimum pH requirement is 7.2-7.4. Some strains are parasitic or pathogenic to vertebrates; other strains are free-living.
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The morphology and characteristics of Leptospira interrogans are consistent with their genus.
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