Early infection dynamics of Dichelobacter nodosus during an ovine experimental footrot in contact infection.
INTRODUCTION:Ovine footrot caused by Dichelobacter nodosus is a highly contagious and painful disease representing an economic as well as an animal welfare problem. In order to get more information on the infection dynamics, 26 lambs and 4 ewes enrolled in an in-contact infection trial were monitored over two weeks for the presence of D. nodosus-specific DNA. Two D. nodosus-positive ewes were housed together with 13 confirmed negative lambs. The control group consisted of another 13 lamb siblings and two confirmed D. nodosus-negative ewes. Every foot of all sheep was sampled seven times over the two weeks experiment period and subsequently analyzed for the presence of D. nodosus by quantitative real-time PCR. The control group was negative at the beginning and the end of the experiment and showed no clinical symptoms of footrot. The two positive ewes showed a high, but hundred fold differing level of virulent D. nodosus that remained constant over time with one of the ewes being also weakly positive for benign D. nodosus. All lambs of the infection group were positive for virulent D. nodosus at 14 days post infection (dpi). The first positive animals were observed on 3 dpi. The D. nodosus load remained at a low level and only increased in a few lambs at the end of the trial. Five of the contact lambs showed suspicious clincal signs (score 1-2) at 14 dpi corroborating the PCR results and indicating that the disease starts as early as two weeks after contact with positive sheep.