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"Brachyspira hampsonii" associated diarrhea in pigs: virulence assessment and host-pathogen interactions



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This thesis aimed to verify the causal association between "B. hampsonii" and the re-emergence of mucohaemorrhagic diarrhea in North American swine farms, to investigate the role of the intestinal microbiome as a predisposing factor for infection, to develop a porcine colon in vitro culture model and to apply this model in investigating early host-pathogen interactions. Two infection trials were conducted to determine the pathogenicity of "B. hampsonii" clade II and clade I. Weanling pigs were divided into control (n=6) and inoculated (n=12) groups. In each trial, pigs were inoculated with "B. hampsonii" clade II (tissue homogenate or pure culture) or clade I (pure culture) or sterile culture media. Animals were monitored for clinical signs of diarrhea and upon observation of bloody diarrhea they were necropsied for characterization of lesions. Fecal shedding of "B. hampsonii" was monitored throughout the trials using culture and quantitative real-time PCR. Pre and post-diarrhea fecal samples from the clade II infection trial were used to study the microbiome response to "B. hampsonii" infection and to determine if pre-inoculation microbiome composition differed between pigs that did or did not develop clinical disease. For in vitro model development, numerous factors associated with explant survivability in culture were investigated to develop a protocol for culture of porcine colon explants. The optimized model was used to study the first 12 hours of "B. hampsonii" clade II interaction with the host using a combination of histopathology and gene expression analysis. Pigs inoculated with "B. hampsonii" clade I (9/11) and clade II (9/12 and 8/12 in the tissue homogenate and pure culture experiments, respectively) developed mucohaemorrhagic diarrhea and colitis within 14 days of inoculation. In all trials, mucohaemorrhagic diarrhea was significantly more common in inoculated pigs than controls. No significant differences in richness, diversity or taxonomic composition distinguished the pre-inoculation microbiomes of affected or unaffected clade II inoculated pigs. After the development of diarrhea, the fecal microbiome of diarrheic pigs was more dense and had a had a lower Bacteroidetes:Firmicutes ratio when compared to inoculated but unaffected or control pigs. Cultured porcine colon explants displayed differentiated epithelium and crypts after 5 days in culture, while expressing GAPDH at a constant rate. For explants to thrive in vitro our results suggested the use of distal spiral colon, processed immediately after euthanasia, and cultured in an oxygen-rich gas mix with air-liquid culture interface in media containing antibiotics and antifungals. Explants exposed to "B. hampsonii" for 12 hours had a greater number of necrotic cells and thicker catarrhal exudate than control explants. Interaction of spirochaetes with the epithelium, necrotic cells and crypts was visible under optical microscopy, and a trend of increased expression of IFN-γ and e-cadherin in inoculated explants relative to control explants was observed. Taken together, results of this thesis demonstrate that "B. hampsonii" causes mucohaemorrhagic diarrhea in pigs and modulates their intestinal microbiome. The development of an in vitro infection model that replicates in vivo features facilitated the observation of the initial events in "B. hampsonii" interaction with the colon. When explants were exposed to "B. hampsonii" similar histological lesions to in vivo were observed. This system provides a powerful model for future studies of the pathogenesis of "B. hampsonii" and other enteric pathogens of pigs.



Brachyspira, Brachyspira hampsonii, pathogenesis, pathophysiology, swine dysentery, colitis, mucohaemorrhagic diarrhea, diarrhea, organ explant, in vitro organ culture, microbiome, spirochete, colonic diarrhea



Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Veterinary Microbiology


Veterinary Microbiology


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