Indexed on: 14 Dec '07Published on: 14 Dec '07Published in: Journal of clinical microbiology
Cecal samples from laying chickens from 25 farms with a history of decreased egg production, diarrhea, and/or increased feed conversion ratios were examined for anaerobic intestinal spirochetes of the genus Brachyspira. Seventy-three samples positive in an immunofluorescence assay for Brachyspira species were further examined using selective anaerobic culture, followed by phenotypic analysis, species-specific PCRs (for Brachyspira hyodysenteriae, B. intermedia, and B. pilosicoli), and a Brachyspira genus-specific PCR with sequencing of the partial 16S rRNA gene products. Brachyspira cultures were obtained from all samples. Less than half of the isolates could be identified to the species level on the basis of their biochemical phenotypes, while all but four isolates (5.2%) were speciated by using PCR and sequencing of DNA extracted from the bacteria. Different Brachyspira spp. were found within a single flock and also in cultures from single chickens, emphasizing the need to obtain multiple samples when investigating outbreaks of avian intestinal spirochetosis. The most commonly detected spirochetes were the pathogenic species B. intermedia and B. pilosicoli. The presumed nonpathogenic species B. innocens, B. murdochii, and the proposed "B. pulli" also were identified. Pathogenic B. alvinipulli was present in two flocks, and this is the first confirmed report of B. alvinipulli in chickens outside the United States. Brachyspira hyodysenteriae, the agent of swine dysentery, also was identified in samples from three flocks. This is the first confirmed report of natural infection of chickens with B. hyodysenteriae. Experimental infection studies are required to assess the pathogenic potential of these B. hyodysenteriae isolates.