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LAMENESS in cattle, sheep and goats is a major animal welfare concern worldwide. The majority of cases are caused by claw disorders. Sheep and goats are usually susceptible to the same claw diseases, but contagious ovine digital dermatitis (CODD), which is associated with Treponema species, has previously only been diagnosed in sheep. However, a UK goat herd with severe lameness of unknown aetiology was recently assessed, and Treponema species were identified in goats with lesions resembling CODD (Sullivan and others 2014b). This finding indicates that a painful, debilitating and costly disease has spread to goats, which may have implications for everyone involved in goat farming.
Treponema species are Gram-negative, spiral shaped bacteria, which are fastidious and difficult to culture. Treponemes can infect a wide range of host species and are associated with very different diseases such as periodontal disease in humans, ear necrosis and skin ulcers in pigs, CODD in sheep and digital dermatitis in cattle (Pringle and others 2009, Sayers and others 2009). Both CODD and digital dermatitis affect the digital skin and/or claw horn, and even though the aetiology of these two diseases is not fully established, there are strong indications that they have a polymicrobial aetiology in which Treponema species play an important role.
Digital dermatitis is endemic in most …