We present the largest and most representative study of the serological diversity of Dichelobacter nodosus in England. D. nodosus causes footrot and is one of the top five globally important diseases of sheep. The commercial vaccine, containing nine serogroups, has low efficacy compared with bivalent vaccines. Our aim was to investigate the prevalence and distribution of serogroups of D. nodosus in England to elucidate whether a bivalent vaccine could protect the national flock. Farmers from 164 flocks submitted eight interdigital swabs from eight, preferably diseased, sheep. All serogroups, A–I, were detected by PCR in 687/1150 D. nodosus positive swabs, with a prevalence of 2.6–69.3% of positive swabs per serogroup. There was a median of two serogroups per flock (range 0–6). Serogroups were randomly distributed between, but clustered within, flocks, with 50 combinations of serogroups across flocks. H and B were the most prevalent serogroups, present in > 60% of flocks separately but in only 27% flocks together. Consequently, a bivalent vaccine targeting these two serogroups would protect 27% of flocks fully (if only H and B present) and partially, if more serogroups were present in the flock. We conclude that one bivalent vaccine would not protect the national flock against footrot and, with 50 combinations of serogroups in flocks, flock-specific vaccines are necessary.
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