Soda cans and leptospirosis


First seen in 2002, these emails are entirely without substance, and have been used to send spam, transport viruses and simply to cause panic. The text of the email varies, but the most common version we’ve seen in 2005 is as follows:

This incident happened recently in North Texas . We need to be even more careful everywhere. A woman went boating one Sunday, taking with her some cans of coke which she put in the refrigerator of the boat. On Monday she was taken into Intensive Care Unit and on Wednesday she died.

The autopsy revealed a certain Leptospirose caused by the can of coke from which she had drunk, not using a glass. A test showed that the can was infected by dried rat urine and hence the disease Leptospirosis.

Rat urine contains toxic and deathly substances. It is highly recommended to wash thoroughly the upper part of soda cans before drinking out of them as they have been stocked in warehouses and transported straight to the shops without being cleaned

A study at NYCU showed that the tops of soda cans are more contaminated than public toilets (i.e).. full of germs and bacteria. So wash them with water before putting them to the mouth to avoid any kind of fatal accident.

Please forward this message to all the people you care about.

The email evolves over time, and currently we are seeing a rise in circulation in the USA, referring to deaths in several states. If you receive one of these messages, please delete it and ignore what it says. You are more at risk of being hit by lightning while riding a camel than contracting leptospirosis from a commercial drinks container.

Official position of the LIC:

While there is a theoretical risk of human infection from residual rat urine on cans or bottles, the statistical risk is extremely small. Leptospira require constant immersion in water to survive, and so drying of the surface for any length of time will permanently kill the bacteria. Given that drinking containers are non-porous, surface moisture dries very quickly and cannot possibly contaminate the contents.

Drinking from a can or bottle that has been exposed to rat urine presents a risk in theory only. There are no reported cases in the literature of human infection being unequivocally traced to cans or bottles and no medical studies have been performed into leptospira on drinks containers, or into the relative bacterial levels of drinks containers and public toilets.

The emails usually report a study by ‘NYCU’. There is no such University (it is an acronym for News You Can Use) and is in no way connected to New York University.