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Pathogenesis of ovine footrot disease: a complex picture
  1. Rachel Clifton, BA, VetMB, MRCVS1 and
  2. Laura Green, BVSc, MSc, PhD, MRCVS2
  1. 1e-mail:
  2. 2University of Warwick, Coventry CV4 7AL, UK, e-mail:

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FOOTROT (interdigital dermatitis [ID] and under-running footrot) is an infectious dermatitis of sheep feet that results in both poor welfare and production losses. Footrot is present in more than 90 per cent of flocks (Winter and others 2015) and accounts for approximately 70 per cent of lameness in sheep in England. The cost to the UK sheep industry is estimated between £24 million and £80 million per annum (Nieuwhof and Bishop 2005, Wassink and others 2010).

In 1941, Beveridge identified Dichelobacter nodosus as the causal agent of ovine footrot. Through experimental challenge he concluded that D nodosus alone was required for footrot to occur but the disease was more severe when other bacterial species including Fusobacterium necrophorum and spirochaetes were present. More recent research has confirmed that D nodosus has virulence factors (Type IV fimbriae and AprV2 protease) that are essential for the occurrence of footrot (Kennan and others 2001, 2010).

Later studies of disease pathogenesis reported that F necrophorum was the causal agent of ID, and that the presence of F necrophorum was required before colonisation with D nodosus could occur (Roberts and Egerton 1969). This led to the concept that ID, also known as scald, and under-running footrot were two separate disease conditions, with ID making sheep more susceptible to under-running footrot (Grogono-Thomas and Johnston 1997, Winter 2004). This concept was widely believed and stated in veterinary textbooks, expert articles and information provided to farmers (Winter 2004, Abbott and Lewis 2005).

The advent of molecular techniques has allowed further investigation of …

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