Sites of persistence of Fusobacterium necrophorum and Dichelobacter nodosus: a paradigm shift in understanding the epidemiology of footrot in sheep

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • The University of Warwick


Sites of persistence of bacterial pathogens contribute to disease dynamics of bacterial diseases. Footrot is a globally important bacterial disease that reduces health and productivity of sheep. It is caused by Dichelobacter nodosus, a pathogen apparently highly specialised for feet, while Fusobacterium necrophorum, a secondary pathogen in footrot is reportedly ubiquitous on pasture. Two prospective longitudinal studies were conducted to investigate the persistence of D. nodosus and F. necrophorum in sheep feet, mouths and faeces, and in soil. Molecular tools were used to detect species, strains and communities. In contrast to the existing paradigm, F. necrophorum persisted on footrot diseased feet, and in mouths and faeces; different strains were detected in feet and mouths. D. nodosus persisted in soil and on diseased, but not healthy, feet; similar strains were detected on both healthy and diseased feet of diseased sheep. We conclude that D. nodosus and F. necrophorum depend on sheep for persistence but use different strategies to persist and spread between sheep within and between flocks. Elimination of F. necrophorum would be challenging due to faecal shedding. In contrast D. nodosus could be eliminated if all footrot-affected sheep were removed and fade out of D. nodosus occurred in the environment before re-infection of a foot.


Original languageEnglish
Article number14429
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Early online date8 Oct 2019
Publication statusPublished - 8 Oct 2019