Identification of Brachyspira species by cpn60 universal target sequencing is superior to NADH oxidase gene sequencing
The pig colon is the habitat of diverse Brachyspira species, of which only a few are of clinical importance. Methods for identification have shifted from phenotypic to molecular testing over the last two decades. Following the emergence of B. hampsonii it became evident that relying on species-specific PCRs carries the risk of overlooking important new species. Consequently, sequencing was proposed as an unbiased alternative for identification of isolates. So far, the main target for identification across species has been the NADH oxidase gene (nox). However, multiple copies of this gene in the genome and potential lateral gene transfer reduce confidence when using this gene. This study compared identification and phylogentic relationship inferred from nox sequencing to that inferred from sequencing of the cpn60 universal target using a collection of 168 isolates from different Brachyspira species. The majority of isolates had an identical identification with both methods. There were a few outliers in the trees with uncertain assignment to a species by BLAST analysis. A few major discrepancies pertained to the pathogenic species B. hampsonii (2), B. pilosicoli (1) and B. suanatina (1). Weakly haemolytic variants of B. hyodysenteriae were assigned to the correct species by both methods. Some of the isolates identified as B. hampsonii also had a weakly haemolytic phenotype.