Skip to main content
Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2008

Phenotypic and molecular characterization of Brachyspira spp. isolated from laying hens in different housing systems

Jansson, D. S.; Fellstrom, C.; Rasback, T.; Vagsholm, I.; Gunnarsson, A.; Ingermaa, F.; Johansson, K. -E.


Several species of intestinal spirochaetes, Brachyspira (B.) alvinipulli, B. intermedia and B. pilosicoli, may cause reduced egg production and faecal staining of eggshells in chickens. The aim of this study was to characterize potentially pathogenic and presumably non-pathogenic Brachyspira spp. from commercial laying hens. Selective culture, phenotyping, PCR and 16S rRNA gene sequencing were used and clinical data were collected. Phenotypic profiles were obtained for 489 isolates and 351 isolates obtained after subculture, and 30 isolates were selected for molecular characterization. Seven isolates were positive by a B. intermedia-specific PCR based on the nox gene, and two were positive in a B. hyodysenteriae-specific 23S rRNA gene based PCR. By comparative phylogenetic analysis in combination with PCR and phenotyping, seven isolates were identified as B. intermedia, eight isolates as B. innocens, five as B. murdochii, and three isolates each as B. alvinipulli and "B. pulli". The remaining four isolates could not be assigned to any presently recognized species. Coinfection with several species or genetic variants of Brachyspira spp. were detected in some flocks and samples, suggesting a high level of diversity. Organic flocks with access to outdoor areas were at higher risk (RR = 2.3; 95% CI 1.5-3.6) for being colonized than chickens in other housing systems. No significant differences between colonized and non-colonized flocks were found regarding clinical parameters, i.e. mortality, egg production, faecally contaminated eggshells, and wet litter. Our results show that a combination of traditional laboratory diagnostics, molecular tests and phylogeny is needed for identification of Brachyspira sp. from chickens. (C) 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


avian intestinal spirochaetes; Brachyspira; chicken; housing system; PCR; phenotype; 16S rRNA gene sequencing

Published in

Veterinary Microbiology
2008, volume: 130, number: 3-4, pages: 348-362

Authors' information

Jansson, Monica Desiree Seger (Jansson, Desirée)
National Veterinary Institute (SVA)
Jansson, Monica Desiree Seger (Jansson, Desirée)
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Clinical Sciences
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Clinical Sciences
Råsbäck, Therese
National Veterinary Institute (SVA)
National Veterinary Institute (SVA)
Gunnarsson, A.
National Veterinary Institute (SVA)
Ingermaa, Fredrika
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Biomedical Science and Veterinary Public Health
National Veterinary Institute (SVA)

UKÄ Subject classification

Veterinary Science

Publication Identifiers


URI (permanent link to this page)