19+Spiral Bacteria Examples: Detailed Facts Around It

Let us learn about a few spiral bacteria.

Spiral bacteria are gram-negative, spiral-shaped, motile prokaryotes belonging to the genus Spirillum. Since the creation of this genus in 1832 by Gottfried Ehrenberg, a German zoologist, numerous species having similar morphological appearances began to be discovered over time. These bacteria are commonly found in aquatic habitats and are capable to swim with the help of flagella.

Spiral bacteria examples:

In the following section, we will discuss the spiral bacteria examples in detail.

Spirillum volutans

S. volutans, one of the largest species of bacteria is found in both fresh water and stagnant water.

Helicobacter pylori

H. pylori is commonly found in the stomach and is known to cause several infections in humans. It is a helix-shaped (3µm long, 0.5 µm diameter) bacterium. H. pylori requires oxygen in lower concentrations than in the atmosphere.

Treponema pallidum

T. pallidum is popularly known to cause syphilis in humans and can be observed under a light microscope by only using darkfield illumination.

Leptospira interrogans

L. interrogans is a gram-negative, obligate aerobic spirochete. Two periplasmic flagella on its surface provide its motility and are commonly found in tropical regions. The species name ‘interrogans’ can be explained by the fact that these cells have hooked ends that resemble a question mark.

spiral bacteria examples
Leptospira interrogans from Pixabay

L. interrogans can survive at a temperature range of 28 0C to 30 0C and a pH of 7.4. These prokaryotes are host-associated in nature and tend to grow in the blood of hosts from where they spread throughout the body.

Borrelia recurrentis

B. recurrentis is widely known to cause relapsing fever in Ethiopia. It is transmitted from person to person via body louse.

Campylobacter jejuni

C. jejuni is a helical-shaped, gram-negative, nonfermenting, motile bacterium. It is a pathogenic bacterium and responsible for causing life-threatening food poisoning in Europe and in the US. It colonizes the digestive tract of many bird species and is also isolated from kangaroo feces. In laboratories, it is cultured at 42 0C which is the normal avian body temperature.

Treponema carateum

T. carateum is a causative agent of pinta, a skin infection in the children of tropical American countries.

Leptospira biflexa

L. biflexa is a non-pathogenic member of the genus Leptospira.

Borrelia burgdorferi

B. burgdorferi is a widely studied spirochaete and one of the causative agents of Lyme disease in humans. It is identified to have long cells with flexible cell walls. This organism can survive in low oxygen concentration and the presence of eleven periplasmic flagella set at each polar end allow them to move across high viscous media.

Treponema vincentii

T. vincentii is a motile spirochaete found in chronic periodontitis.

Leptospira kirschneri

L. kirschneri is a gram-negative, obligate, aerobic species and causes leptospirosis in pigs.

Borrelia afzelii

B. afzelii is named after Swedish dermatologist Arvid Afzelius and can infect various species of vertebrates and invertebrates.  

Treponema denticola

T. denticola is a gram-negative, oblicate aerobic, motile spirochaete bacterium. It survives in a diverse oral microbial community.

Borrelia duttoni

B. duttoni is named after Joseph Everett Dutton, who died of relapsing fever in 1905. This bacterium is a causative agent of relapsing fever.

Treponema paraluiscuniculi

T. paraluiscuniculi is a spiral-shaped, gram-negative bacterium and causes Rabbit Syphilis in the laboratory, pet, and wild rabbits.

Spirillum winogradskyi

S. winogradskyi is a gram-negative spiral bacterium found in the wastewater treatment plant.  

Borrelia turicatae

B. turicatae is predominantly found in the Southwestern United States, where its host organisms are mostly sick dogs.

Borrelia anserina

B. anserina is a helical spiral bacterium and can be grown in anaerobic conditions. It’s a pathogenic agent for poultry birds.

Treponema socranskii

T. socranskii is a helical, motile, anaerobic bacterium. It is commonly found in the oral cavity in the space between the teeth and gums of periodontitis patients.

Borrelia lusitaniae

B. lusitaniae is a pathogenic, gram-negative, spirochaete bacterium. Originating from Portugal, it has spread to European and North African parts. The host organism for this species is the common wall lizard whose migration is very limited leading to its availability to certain sites.

Treponema azotonutricium

T. azotonutricium is the first termite gut spiral bacterium to be isolated.

Types of spiral bacteria

On the basis of cell thickness, cell flexibility, and motility, spiral bacteria can be classified into three types:


Vibrios are commonly known as comma-shaped, facultative anaerobic bacteria belonging to the family Vibrionaceae. These are gram-negative, highly motile organisms due to the presence of polar flagella. Vibrios have a requirement of salt and can grow over a wide range of temperatures (20 0C to >40 0C). They are commonly found in aquatic and marine habitats.

Several Vibrio species are associated with a number of infections in humans. These infections are divided into two major groups: cholera and non-cholera infections. V. cholerae, the causative agent of cholera enters the human through contaminated food or water. V. parahaemolyticus, and V. vulnificus, are the two non-cholera Vibrio species responsible for causing vibriosis. The above-mentioned three Vibrio species are well documented human pathogens. Another Vibrio species, V. anguillarum is found in diseased fishes.


Spirilla are spiral-shaped bacteria belonging to the family Spirillaceae. Morphologically, spirilla are identified as gram-negative, motile, helical, rigid cell with a bunch of flagella at polar ends. These prokaryotes are aquatic except for S. minus, which is found in the blood of healthy rodents and can be transmitted to man causing rat-bite fever. They are usually found in organic matter-rich stagnant fresh water.

Aquaspirillum and Ocenospirillum are two other categories of spirilla bacteria. Aquaspirillum is commonly found in stagnant freshwater habitats such as ditches, canal water, and pond water. These bacteria are very small in size and cannot grow in saline environment due to low salt tolerance. Most of the species in this group use respiratory metabolism, but a few of them have shown the ability to grow anaerobically. Ocenospirillum can grow only in marine environments by forming coccoid bodies that are characterized by thin walls and resistant to lysis when placed in distilled water.  


Spirochaetes are gram-negative, motile, spiral bacteria having endocellular flagella. They are commonly found in liquid environment such as, mud water, and blood. Several species of this group are known to cause severe human infections: syphilis, Lyme disease, and relapsing fever. Most of these organisms are free-living and anaerobic.

They are also found as metabolic symbionts of insects and parasites on animals. These prokaryotes can effectively translocate through viscous media and tissue barriers owing to endoflagella also known as axial filaments that provide the organism’s rotational flexibility.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are spiral bacteria?

Spiral bacteria are spiral-shaped, one of the three major morphologically categorized prokaryotes along with spherical cocci and rod-shaped bacilli. These organisms can be obligate and facultative in nature in context to their oxygen dependency.

What advantage does the spiral shape provide to bacteria?

Spiral bacteria like Campylobacter jejuni and Helicobacter pylori display decreased virulence when the genes contributing to the spiral shape were knocked out.

What is the purpose of the flagellum in spiral bacteria?

Flagellum aids in movement and chemotaxis in spiral bacteria.

How spiral bacteria are transmitted?

Spiral bacteria are generally transmitted through contaminated water or uncooked seafood or vegetables.

Moumita Nath

Hi..I am Moumita Nath, I have completed my Master's in Biotechnology. I always like to explore new areas in the field of Biotechnology. Apart from this, I like to read, travel and listen to Music.

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