Intestinal spirochete infections of chickens : a review of disease associations, epidemiology and control.

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

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)83-91
Journal / PublicationAnimal Health Research Reviews
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2001
Externally publishedYes


This paper presents an overview of intestinal spirochete infections of chickens. It focuses particularly on studies in Australia, where recent surveys of 136 layer and broiler breeder flocks have revealed a high rate of infection (>40%) with intestinal spirochetes. Infection was not detected in broiler flocks. Approximately 50% of isolates from infected flocks were Brachyspira (Serpulina) intermedia or B. pilosicoli, with the other isolates being B. innocens, B. murdochii or the proposed species 'B. pulli'. No isolates of B. alvinipulli were found. Intestinal spirochetes were significantly associated with wet litter problems and/or reduced egg production. Experimental infection of point-of-lay birds with either B. intermedia or B. pilosicoli caused reduced egg production, and, with B. intermedia, a significant increase in fecal moisture content. Infection with B. innocens caused no significant changes. In-water treatment of a flock with a mixed spirochete infection using lincospectin resulted in a slimy diarrhea lasting for 2-3 weeks, followed by absence of spirochetes for 3 months. Birds treated with tiamulin remained healthy, and had a reduced level of infection with intestinal spirochetes (30%) for 3 months. Trials are under way to test the efficacy of antimicrobials in point-of-lay chickens experimentally infected with either B. intermedia or B. pilosicoli.