Multilocus enzyme electrophoresis was used to assess genetic relationships amongst 175 isolates of anaerobic intestinal spirochaetes, including 72 isolates from individuals living in different parts of the world, 102 from pigs and one from a dog. Amongst porcine isolates belonging to the genus Serpulina, a possible new species was identified. All but one of the isolates from man were clustered with the canine isolate and 59 porcine isolates in a distinct group that we have previously called “Anguillina coli”. The human and animal spirochaetes in this group had four-to-six axial flagella and most were recovered from individuals with diarrhoea. They included a strain of the so-called “Serpulina jonesii”, that was not a true serpulina. These 71 human isolates were distributed into 44 electrophoretic types and had a mean genetic diversity of 0·32. These were further divided into 26 clonal groups. Three of these clones also contained porcine isolates, one of which was strain P43/6/78, the agent of porcine intestinal spirochaetosis. Four of the clones contained human isolates from different sources. One included isolates from Western Australian Aboriginal children and from Italian adults, and the other three contained isolates from Western Australian Aboriginal children and from homosexual males in Sydney, New South Wales. There were no known connections between these human populations. The other spirochaete of human origin was Brachyspira aalborgi, which was distinct from isolates in the genera Serpulina and “Anguillina”. Both B. aalborgi and “A. coli” have been associated with human cases of intestinal spirochaetosis. Others have questioned the clinical significance of colonisation by B. aalborgi, but we suggest that isolates of “A. coli” may be the cause of some clinical cases of intestinal spirochaetosis
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