Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Fecal shedding of Brachyspira spp. on a farrow-to-finish swine farm with a clinical history of “Brachyspira hampsonii”-associated colitis

Amy H Patterson1, Joseph E Rubin12, Champika Fernando1, Matheus O Costa1, John CS Harding2 and Janet E Hill1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Veterinary Microbiology, University of Saskatchewan, 52 Campus Drive, Saskatoon, SK S7N 5B4, Canada

2 Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences, Western College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, SK, Canada

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BMC Veterinary Research 2013, 9:137  doi:10.1186/1746-6148-9-137

Published: 11 July 2013



Brachyspira associated diarrhea is a re-emerging concern for Canadian swine producers. To identify critical control points for reducing the impact of Brachyspira on production, improved diagnostic tools and a better understanding of the on-farm epidemiology of these pathogens are required. A cross-sectional study was conducted for the detection of Brachyspira on a commercial, two-site, farrow-to-finish pork production unit in Saskatchewan, Canada with a clinical history of mucohaemorrhagic colitis associated with “B. hampsonii”.


Rectal swabs from pigs at all production stages were collected over 13 weeks (n = 866). Two swabs were collected per pig for culture and Gram stain, and for PCR. Ninety-one culture positive samples were detected, with the highest prevalence of Brachyspira shedding in grower pigs (21%). No Brachyspira were detected in pre-weaned piglets. PCR and Gram stain of rectal swabs detected fewer positive samples than culture. The most prevalent species detected was B. murdochii; other species detected included B. pilosicoli, B. innocens, and “Brachyspira hampsonii”. Phylogenetic analysis revealed that several of the isolates, including some strongly beta-haemolytic isolates, might represent novel taxa.


Our results indicate that apparently healthy pigs can be colonized with diverse Brachyspira species, including some potential pathogens, and that frequency of shedding peaks in the grower stage. Difference in the detection rates of Brachyspira amongst culture, Gram stain or PCR on rectal swabs have implications for choice of detection methods and surveillance approaches that may be most effective in Brachyspira control strategies.

Brachyspira; Swine; PCR; Culture; Surveillance; Shedding