Studies of equine intestinal spirochetes have long focused on intestinal contents alone, but intestinal spirochetosis has recently been reported in a 21-month-old Thoroughbred colt in Japan. To define the clinical and pathological significance of intestinal spirochetosis in several horses, an epizootiologic survey with histologic, immunohistochemical and ultrastructural methods was conducted for Brachyspira antigen-containing intestinal spirochetes in 12 diseased or injured Thoroughbred horses, aged from 35 days to 17 years. Brachyspira antigen-containing spirochetes were found in 7 of 12 horses (58.3%), and were more frequent in the cecum than in other parts of the bowel. It was unclear whether the infection was clinically related to diarrhea or dysentery, but histopathology revealed a close association between the bacterial infection and epithelial hyperplasia. Crypt epithelium consisted mainly of goblet cells, and showed frequent mitosis throughout its length. Inflammatory cells and congestion were also present. There were numerous spirochetes in the crypts, and some invaded the cecal and colonic epithelia and underlying lamina propria. Ultrastructurally, the spirochetes were divided into 4 types. Three types were identified in degenerative epithelial cells or intracellularly. Brachyspira antigen-containing intestinal spirochetes invading the mucosa were capable of causing epithelial hyperplasia in the cecum and colon in the horses. The findings in this study will increase awareness of the importance of intestinal spirochetosis and may also be helpful for the diagnosis and treatment of this condition.
(Comparative Pathology Section, Hokkaido Research Station TEL +81-11-851-5226)
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