Emergence of Brachyspira species and strains : reinforcing the need for surveillance

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Article number8
Journal / PublicationPorcine health management
Publication statusPublished - 12 Jun 2015
Externally publishedYes



This short review discusses the increasing complexity that has developed around the understanding of Brachyspira species that infect pigs, and their ability to cause disease. It describes the recognition of new weakly haemolytic Brachyspira species, and the growing appreciation that Brachyspira pilosicoli and some other weakly haemolytic species may be pathogenic in pigs. It discusses swine dysentery (SD) caused by the strongly haemolytic Brachyspira hyodysenteriae, particularly the cyclical nature of the disease whereby it can largely disappear as a clinical problem from a farm or region, and re-emerge years later. The review then describes the recent emergence of two newly described strongly haemolytic pathogenic species, "Brachyspira suanatina" and "Brachyspira hampsonii" both of which appear to have reservoirs in migratory waterbirds, and which may be transmitted to and between pigs. "B. suanatina" seems to be confined to Scandinavia, whereas "B. hampsonii" has been reported in North America and Europe, causes a disease indistinguishable from SD, and has required the development of new routine diagnostic tests. Besides the emergence of new species, strains of known Brachyspira species have emerged that vary in important biological properties, including antimicrobial susceptibility and virulence. Strains can be tracked locally and at the national and international levels by identifying them using multilocus sequence typing (MLST) and comparing them against sequence data for strains in the PubMLST databases. Using MLST in conjunction with data on antimicrobial susceptibility can form the basis for surveillance programs to track the movement of resistant clones. In addition some strains of B. hyodysenteriae have low virulence potential, and some of these have been found to lack the B. hyodysenteriae 36 kB plasmid or certain genes on the plasmid whose activity may be associated with colonization. Lack of the plasmid or the genes can be identified using PCR testing, and this information can be added to the MLST and resistance data to undertake detailed surveillance. Strains of low virulence are particularly important where they occur in high health status breeding herds without causing obvious disease: potentially they could be transmitted to production herds where they may colonize more effectively and cause disease under stressful commercial conditions.

Research Area(s)

  • Brachyspira, Spirochaete, Swine dysentery, Species, Strains, Antimicrobial resistance, Virulence

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