The Spirochete Brachyspira pilosicoli, Enteric Pathogen of Animals and Humans

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Original languageEnglish
Article numbere00087-17
Journal / PublicationClinical Microbiology Reviews
Issue number1
Online published29 Nov 2017
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2018


Brachyspira pilosicoli is a slow-growing anaerobic spirochete that colonizes the large intestine. Colonization occurs commonly in pigs and adult chickens, causing colitis/typhlitis, diarrhea, poor growth rates, and reduced production. Colonization of humans also is common in some populations (individuals living in village and peri-urban settings in developing countries, recent immigrants from developing countries, homosexual males, and HIV-positive patients), but the spirochete rarely is investigated as a potential human enteric pathogen. In part this is due to its slow growth and specialized growth requirements, meaning that it is not detectable in human fecal samples using routine diagnostic methods. Nevertheless, it has been identified histologically attached to the colon and rectum in patients with conditions such as chronic diarrhea, rectal bleeding, and/or nonspecific abdominal discomfort, and one survey of Australian Aboriginal children showed that colonization was significantly associated with failure to thrive. B. pilosicoli has been detected in the bloodstream of elderly patients or individuals with chronic conditions such as alcoholism and malignancies. This review describes the spirochete and associated diseases. It aims to encourage clinicians and clinical microbiologists to consider B. pilosicoli in their differential diagnoses and to develop and use appropriate diagnostic protocols to identify the spirochete in clinical specimens.

Research Area(s)

  • Animals, Brachyspira, Colitis, Control, Diagnosis, Epidemiology, Spirochete, Zoonosis