Skip to main content
Select Source:

Spirochetes

Spirochetes

Spirochetes are a group comprised of six genera of bacteria in a family known as Spirochaete. They are named because of their spiral shape. Typically, spirochetes are very slender. Their length can vary from about five microns (millionths of an inch) to several hundred microns, depending on the species. Under the light or electron microscope , the tight coiling that is characteristic of spirochetes is readily visible. Spirochetes are a significant health threat to humans. Both syphilis and Lyme disease are caused by spirochetes. Beneficially, spirochetes contribute to digestion in ruminants such as cows.

Besides their shape, another distinctive aspect of spirochetes in the presence of what is essentially internal flagella. These structures, called axial filaments, are embedded in the cell wall of the bacterium. They are constructed very similarly as flagella, having the characteristic arrangement of structures that anchors the filament to the cell membrane. There can be only a few to as many as 200 axial filaments present in a given bacterium. The rigidity of an axial filament allows a bacterium to move in a corkscrew type of motion. Axial filaments are present in all spirochetes except Treponema.

Spirochetes have varied habitats and growth requirements. Some of the bacteria require oxygen for their survival, while others do not tolerate the presence of oxygen.

In terms of human health, spirochetes are noteworthy because of the disease causing members of the group. Treponema pallidum is the cause of syphilis and Borrelia burgdorferi is the cause of Lyme disease, which can produce a chronic infection that can result in arthritis, damage to the central nervous system, and even heart failure. Borrelia burgdorferi can convert to a metabolically dormant cyst in natural environments and even in humans. The cyst form allows the bacterium to survive inhospitable conditions and to elude host immune defense mechanisms.

In ruminants, spirochetes are beneficial. Their chemical activities help the cow or other ruminant digest food. Spirochetes also live in harmony with mussels and oysters, where the bacteria help in feeding by acting as cilia to sweep food into the mollusk.

A spirochete known as Aquaspririllum magnetotacticum is of interest to microbiologists because it is one of a number of bacteria that possess magnetic particles. These particles allow a bacterium to orient itself in the water in relation to Earth's magnetic field.

See also Bacteria and bacterial infection; Bacterial movement; Magnetotactic bacteria

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Spirochetes." World of Microbiology and Immunology. . Encyclopedia.com. 10 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Spirochetes." World of Microbiology and Immunology. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 10, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/spirochetes

"Spirochetes." World of Microbiology and Immunology. . Retrieved September 10, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/spirochetes

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Spirochaetales

Spirochaetales An order of bacteria in which the cells are slender, spiral in shape, and flexible, and 5–250μm long, depending on species. They are motile with rotating and flexing movements; their motility is due to periplasmic flagella (i.e. flagella that are sandwiched between the peptidoglycan and outer membrane layers of the cell wall). Species are aerobic, anaerobic, or facultatively anaerobic. They are chemo-organotrophs. There are 2 families, with several genera, including some important pathogens (e.g. Treponema pallidum), found in a wide range of habitats. Also, spirochaetes are involved in the symbiosis between termites and flagellate protozoa.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Spirochaetales." A Dictionary of Plant Sciences. . Encyclopedia.com. 10 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Spirochaetales." A Dictionary of Plant Sciences. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 10, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/spirochaetales

"Spirochaetales." A Dictionary of Plant Sciences. . Retrieved September 10, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/spirochaetales

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

spirochaete

spirochaete Any nonrigid corkscrew-shaped bacterium that moves by means of flexions of the cell, produced by a series of rotatory axial fibrils underlying the cell's outer sheath. Most spirochaetes are Gram-negative (see Gram's stain), anaerobic, and feed on dead organic matter. They are particularly common in sewage-polluted waters. Some, however, cause disease in humans and other animals; Treponema, the agent of syphilis, is an example.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"spirochaete." A Dictionary of Biology. . Encyclopedia.com. 10 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"spirochaete." A Dictionary of Biology. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 10, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/spirochaete-0

"spirochaete." A Dictionary of Biology. . Retrieved September 10, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/spirochaete-0

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

spirochaete

spirochaete (spy-roh-keet) n. any one of a group of spiral-shaped bacteria that lack a rigid cell wall and move by means of muscular flexions of the cell. The group includes Borrelia, Leptospira, and Treponema.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"spirochaete." A Dictionary of Nursing. . Encyclopedia.com. 10 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"spirochaete." A Dictionary of Nursing. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 10, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/caregiving/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/spirochaete

"spirochaete." A Dictionary of Nursing. . Retrieved September 10, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/caregiving/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/spirochaete

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

spirochaete

spirochaete A bacterium belonging to the order Spirochaetales.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"spirochaete." A Dictionary of Plant Sciences. . Encyclopedia.com. 10 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"spirochaete." A Dictionary of Plant Sciences. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 10, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/spirochaete

"spirochaete." A Dictionary of Plant Sciences. . Retrieved September 10, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/spirochaete

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.