Epidemiology and Infection

Short Paper

Carriage of intestinal spirochaetes by humans: epidemiological data from Western Australia

C. J.  BROOKE  a1, A. N.  CLAIR  a2, A. S. J.  MIKOSZA  a1, T. V.  RILEY  a2 a3 and D. J.  HAMPSON  a1 c1
a1 Division of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences, Murdoch University, Murdoch, WA 6150, Australia
a2 Division of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, The Western Australian Centre of Pathology and Medical Research, Nedlands WA 6009, Australia
a3 Department of Microbiology, The University of Western Australia, Nedlands WA 6009, Australia


The purpose of this study was to investigate carriage of intestinal spirochaetes by selected population groups in Western Australia. Stool specimens from 293 rural patients with gastrointestinal disorders, and from 227 healthy migrants from developing countries were cultured. Spirochaete isolates were identified using PCR, and typed by pulsed field gel electrophoresis (PFGE). Brachyspira aalborgi was not isolated. Brachyspira pilosicoli was recovered from 15 rural patients, all Aboriginal. Prevalence was 9·9% in 151 Aboriginals and 0% in 142 non-Aboriginals. Carriage of B. pilosicoli amongst migrants was 10·6% (24/227). Carriage was significantly increased in Aboriginal children aged 2–5 years (P = 0·0027) and in migrant individuals from the Middle East and Africa (P = 0·0034). Carriage was significantly associated with detection of faecal protozoa in both Aboriginals (P = 0·0021) and migrants (P = 0·012). PFGE results indicated that the B. pilosicoli strains were genetically diverse.

(Accepted May 24 2001)

c1 Author for correspondence.