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Treponema pallidum spirochetes.
Treponema pallidum spirochetes.
Scientific classification
Domain: Bacteria
Phylum: Spirochetes
Class: Spirochetes
Order: Spirochaetales
Buchanan 1917

   Brachyspira (Serpulina)

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]


Spirochetes is a phylum of distinctive Gram-negative bacteria, which have long, helically coiled cells.[1] Spirochetes are chemoheterotrophic in nature, with lengths between 5 and 250 µm and diameters around 0.1-0.6 µm.[citation needed]

Spriochetes are distinguished from other bacterial phyla by the presence of flagella, sometimes called axial filaments, running lengthwise between the cell membrane and outer membrane. These cause a twisting motion which allows the spirochaete to move about.

The spirochaetes are divided into three families (Brachyspiraceae, Leptospiraceae, and Spirochaetaceae), all placed within a single order (Spirochaetales).

Most spirochaetes are free-living and anaerobic, but there are numerous exceptions, including the above.

Cavalier-Smith has postulated that the Spirochaetes belong in a larger clade called Gracilicutes.[4]


Salvarsan, the first antibiotic in medical history, was effective against spirochaetes only and was primarily used to cure syphilis.

It has been suggested by biologist Lynn Margulis that eukaryotic flagella were derived from symbiotic spirochaetes, but few biologists accept this, as there is no close structural similarity between the two.

See Also


  1. Ryan KJ; Ray CG (editors) (2004). Sherris Medical Microbiology (4th ed. ed.). McGraw Hill. ISBN 0838585299.
  2. McBride A, Athanazio D, Reis M, Ko A (2005). "Leptospirosis". Curr Opin Infect Dis. 18 (5): 376–86. PMID 16148523.
  3. Schwan T (1996). "Ticks and Borrelia: model systems for investigating pathogen-arthropod interactions". Infect Agents Dis. 5 (3): 167–81. PMID 8805079.
  4. Cavalier-Smith, T. (2006). "Rooting the tree of life by transition analyses". Biology Direct. 1 (19). Accessed 10 March 2006

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