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J Mol Microbiol Biotechnol. 2000 Oct;2(4):341-4.

Phylogenetic foundation of spirochetes.

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Department of Molecular Genetics, The Forsyth Institute, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.


The spirochetes are free-living or host-associated, helical bacteria, some of which are pathogenic to man and animal. Comparisons of 16S rRNA sequences demonstrate that the spirochetes represent a monophyletic phylum within the bacteria. The spirochetes are presently classified in the Class Spirochaetes in the order Spirochetales and are divided into three major phylogenetic groupings, or families. The first family Spirochaetaceae contains species of the genera Borrelia, Brevinema, Cristispira, Spirochaeta, Spironema, and Treponema. The second family Brachyspiraceae contains the genus Brachyspira (Serpulina). The third family Leptospiraceae contains species of the genera Leptonema and Leptospira. Novel spirochetal species, or phylotypes, that can not be presently cultivated in vitro, have been identified from the human oral cavity, the termite gut, and other host-associated or free-living sources. There are now over 200 spirochetal species or phylotypes, of which more than half is presently not cultivable. It is likely that there is still a significant unrecognized spirochetal diversity that should be evaluated.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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