Subclinical colitis associated with moderately hemolytic Brachyspira strains

Our latest addition to the swine group at the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine is Dr. Matheus Costa whose research interests are in pathogen virulence mechanisms and more specifically swine dysentery and streptococcal meningitis.

In this latest publication in the Journal of Swine Health and Production, Dr. Costa and his former collaborators from the University of Saskatchewan introduced less-known Brachyspira strains and what their consequences are on the clinical level for the pig.


Objective: Microbiological and virulence characterization of 2 moderately hemolytic Brachyspira strains.

Materials and methods: Clinical isolates were obtained from diarrheic (3603-F2) and healthy (G79) pigs. Phenotypic characterization included assessment of hemolytic activity on blood agar and biochemical profiling. Genotyping was performed by sequencing the nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide oxidase (nox) gene, whole genome sequencing, and comparison to relevant Brachyspira. Pig inoculation included 4 treatment groups in 2 challenge experiments: negative control (sterile broth media; n = 12), positive control (Brachyspira hampsonii genomovar 2 strain 30446; n = 18), and 3603-F2 (n = 12) or G79 (n = 12). Fecal scoring and rectal swabbing for culture were performed daily. Animals were euthanized following onset of mucohemorrhagic diarrhea or between 21 and 28 days post inoculation (dpi). Gross and microscopic pathology were assessed. Terminal colon samples were used to characterize post-infection mucosal ion secretion.

 Hematoxylin and eosin (HE; bar = 200 µm) and Warthin-Faulkner (WF; bar = 20 µm) stained porcine colon from the challenge experiments. A) Negative control pig with normal colon, HE stain. B) Negative control pig with no spirochetes, WF stain. C) Positive control (30446) pig with moderate to severe muconecrotic colitis, HE stain. D) Positive control (30446) pig with many spirochetes in glands (arrows), WF stain. E) Strain 3046-F2 inoculated pig with moderately increased mucus, minimal necrosis and mild colitis, HE stain. F) Strain 3046-F2 inoculated pig with small numbers of spirochetes in glands (arrows), WF stain. G) Strain G79 inoculated pig with a mild mucus increase and minimal colitis, HE stain. H) Strain G79 inoculated pig with occasional glands containing many spirochetes (arrows), WF stain.

Results: Both strains were moderately hemolytic. Whole genome and nox sequencing identified 3603-F2 as Brachyspira murdochii and G79 as a novel strain. Both challenge trials revealed intestinal colonization, but no mucohemorrhagic diarrhea. Sporadic watery diarrhea was induced by 3603-F2 associated with a pattern of microscopic lesions similar to pigs with swine dysentery (positive controls). No diarrhea was observed in G79 inoculated pigs, but microscopic lesions were more severe than in controls. Both strains induced greater colonic anion secretory potential than negative controls 21 dpi.

Implications: Allegedly avirulent Brachyspira species most closely related to B murdochii can be associated with subclinical colitis and may be a concern for grow-finish pigs.

What is the antimicrobial susceptibility of US Brachyspira species?

To answer this question, Drs. Mirajkar, Davies, and Gebhart from the University of Minnesota, collected a total of 124 field isolates originating from all over the country. In this study, four different Brachyspira species were evaluated for their susceptibility against the main antimicrobial medicines used in swine production. Overall the US isolates had the tendency to be less resistant to antimicrobials than were isolates from other countries. However, low susceptibility to lincomycin and to tylosin were noted in the domestic strains. Lastly, the authors raised the question of the lack of  Clinical and Laboratory Standards Institute-approved clinical breakpoints for Brachyspira species which, by categorizing an isolate as sensitive, intermediate, or resistant, would be a tremendous help in determining the best treatment and control strategies at the farm level .

Mirajkar antimicrobial susceptibility brachyspira

Abstract: Outbreaks of swine dysentery, caused by Brachyspira hyodysenteriae and the recently discovered “Brachyspira hampsonii,” have reoccurred in North American swine herds since the late 2000s. Additionally, multiple Brachyspira species have been increasingly isolated by North American diagnostic laboratories. In Europe, the reliance on antimicrobial therapy for control of swine dysentery has been followed by reports of antimicrobial resistance over time. The objectives of our study were to determine the antimicrobial susceptibility trends of four Brachyspira species originating from U.S. swine herds and to investigate their associations with the bacterial species, genotypes, and epidemiological origins of the isolates. We evaluated the susceptibility of B. hyodysenteriae, B. hampsonii, Brachyspira pilosicoli, and Brachyspira murdochii to tiamulin, valnemulin, doxycycline, lincomycin, and tylosin by broth microdilution and that to carbadox by agar dilution. In general, Brachyspira species showed high susceptibility to tiamulin, valnemulin, and carbadox, heterogeneous susceptibility to doxycycline, and low susceptibility to lincomycin and tylosin. A trend of decreasing antimicrobial susceptibility by species was observed (B. hampsonii > B. hyodysenteriae > B. murdochii > B. pilosicoli). In general, Brachyspira isolates from the United States were more susceptible to these antimicrobials than were isolates from other countries. Decreased antimicrobial susceptibility was associated with the genotype, stage of production, and production system from which the isolate originated, which highlights the roles of biosecurity and husbandry in disease prevention and control. Finally, this study also highlights the urgent need for Clinical and Laboratory Standards Institute-approved clinical breakpoints for Brachyspira species, to facilitate informed therapeutic and control strategies.

Link to the full article