Scanning electron microscopy and fluorescent in situ hybridization of experimental Brachyspira (Serpulina) pilosicoli infection in growing pigs

Tim Kåre Jensen, Kristian Møller, Mette Boye, Thomas D. Leser, Sven Erik Lind Jorsal

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    Two groups of six 8-week-old pigs were challenged with 1X10(9) cfu Brachyspira (Serpulina) pilosicoli or Serpulina intermedia daily for 3 consecutive days to study the pathology of porcine colonic spirochetosis by scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH) with oligonucleotide probes targeting ribosomal RNA specific for B. pilosicoli and the genus Brachyspira/Serpulina. Six pigs served as noninoculated controls. The animals were euthanatized successively between postinoculation days 14 and 24. B. pilosicoli was reisolated in feces from all of the inoculated pigs; however, only two pigs developed transient watery diarrhea. S. intermedia was reisolated from four of the inoculated pigs, but clinical signs were not observed. Gross examination of the B. pilosicoli-infected pigs revealed dilated large intestines with a hyperemic mucosa, whereas the large intestines of the S. intermedia-inoculated pigs and the control pigs appeared normal. SEM examination of B. pilosicoli-infected pigs revealed degenerated epithelial cells and spirochetal colonization of the colonic mucosa in four pigs. By FISH, B. pilosicoli cells were found colonizing and invading the surface epithelium and the crypts in all the pigs. Spirochetal crypt colonization markedly exceeded the occurrence of spirochetes on the mucosal surface. SEM examination of S, intermedia-inoculated pigs revealed no abnormalities, and Serpulina cells were detected only sporadically in the otherwise normal appearing mucosa of four pigs by FISH. The results provide further evidence that B. pilosicoli is associated with colitis in pigs, although the gross lesions are mild. The spirochete is capable of colonizing the large intestine, inducing mucosal damage, invasion of the crypt and surface epithelium, and focal infiltration of the lamina propria. In addition, the study shows the applicability of FISH for specific identification of B. pilosicoli in formalin-fixed tissue.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalVeterinary Pathology
    Issue number1
    Pages (from-to)22-32
    Publication statusPublished - 2000


    • Brachyspira pilosicoli
    • pigs
    • in situ hybridization
    • Serpulina intermedia
    • scanning electron microscopy
    • porcine intestinal spirochetosis
    • colitis


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