Phenotypic and genetic diversity among intestinal spirochaetes (genus Brachyspira) in free-living wild mallards (Anas platyrhynchos) sampled in southern Sweden.

Research paper by Désirée S DS Jansson, Marianne M Persson, Ulla U Zimmerman, Karl-Erik KE Johansson

Indexed on: 01 Nov '11Published on: 01 Nov '11Published in: Systematic and Applied Microbiology


Brachyspira spp. are anaerobic intestinal spirochaetes that colonize vertebrates. Some species cause enteric diseases in pigs, chickens and possibly in humans, whereas others display a commensual relationship with their hosts. The aims were to investigate the prevalence among colonized free-living wild mallards (Anas platyrhynchos) of three enteropathogenic Brachyspira spp., and to describe the biodiversity of Brachyspira spp. isolates. Isolates from 150 birds were screened by PCR for 3 pathogenic Brachyspira spp., and 35 isolates from 20 mallards, 4 pigs and 1 chicken were subjected to phenotypic tests, 9 diagnostic PCRs, sequencing of the 16S rRNA and NADH oxidase (nox) genes, phylogenetic analysis and nox gene restriction enzyme analysis in silico. Of the 150 birds, 47%, 33% and 11% were positive by PCR for Brachyspira pilosicoli, Brachyspira intermedia and Brachyspira hyodysenteriae, respectively. Thirty-one characterized isolates were provisionally identified as B. intermedia, Brachyspira alvinipulli, "Brachyspira pulli", or B. pilosicoli, whereas 4 were of indeterminate species affiliation. Many isolates were phylogenetically related to isolates from livestock. Isolates identified by PCR as B. pilosicoli displayed particularly high biodiversity. Up to five different Brachyspira genotypes were found from the same bird. Sequencing of amplicons from isolates that displayed ambiguous results as judged from PCR and phenotyping showed that several diagnostic PCRs were non-specific. Nox gene restriction enzyme analysis in silico correctly identified 2 of 34 characterized isolates. A culture technique based on filtration that produced uncontaminated spirochaete isolates was described. The results show that mallard intestines support a high degree of biodiversity among Brachyspira spp.