Brachyspira spp (formerly Serpulina spp) are a Gram-negative, anaerobic spirochaete which normally resides in the large intestinal microbiota of most dogs worldwide and is considered an emerging cause of mild pathogenic diarrhea in dogs in low socioeconomic regions.
In the colon this spirochaete can penetrate the overlying mucus layer, attach by one cell end to the underlying enterocytes, and initiate localized colitis and diarrhoea.
Prevalence rates in dogs are about 5% of the canine population and the organisms are transmitted between dogs by the fecal-oral route.
Species which have been identified in dogs include:
- Brachyspira pilosicoli (zoonotic)
- Brachyspira canis
- Brachyspira intermedia
- Brachyspira alvinipulli
A significant rise in the presence of Brachyspira equates directly to the occurrence of diarrhea, but their role in the etiopathogenisis of diarrhea in clinically settings is unknown, although they have been isolated in 10% of dogs with diarrhea.
Common symptoms in dogs are intermittent, chronic diarrhea that is sometimes mucohemorrhagic.
Diagnosis is based on selective anaerobic culture of the organism and PCR assays speciation. Pathological examination of intestinal biopsies usually reveals macro- and microscopical lesions of colitis with the bacteria in the lumens of the crypts, in goblet cells and within the colonic epithelium.
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