SHORT COMMUNICATION: We recently characterised the Leptospira interrogans heme oxygenase (hemO) gene and showed that HemO was required for growth with hemoglobin as the sole iron source. Here we investigated the role of HemO in pathogenesis. Hamsters inoculated with the hemO mutant showed 83 survival, compared with 33 for a control mutant (intergenic transposon insertion). Lung pathology was consistent with survival data, showing that HemO contributes significantly to pathogenesis and heme is a major in vivo iron source for L. interrogans. This is only the second defined, attenuated mutant in pathogenic Leptospira and the first to define function of the mutated gene.