Leigh Sullivan 


Leigh Sullivan

Institution: University of Liverpool

Project title: Identifying digital dermatitis infection reservoirs in beef cattle and sheep

Digital dermatitis (DD) is an infectious hoof disease causing severe lameness in ruminants worldwide. The primary cause has been identified as a bacterial agent known as treponemes. The disease can cause a loss in productivity in beef cattle and sheep through reduced reproductive capabilities and weight loss. With no single effective treatment and little understanding of the routes of transmission it is imperative to identify the infection reservoirs of the disease.


1. Identify specific environmental risk factors which may increase levels of DD
2. Identify the main reservoirs of infection.
3. Further characterise beef cattle and sheep DD treponemes and compare with dairy cattle DD treponemes.
4. Determine beef cattle’s exposure and immune response to DD treponemes.


• Bacterial community data from ruminants and their respective environments will be analysed for the presence of DD.
• Relevant samples will be collected from beef cattle and sheep and used to detect and isolate DD treponemes to better clarify transmission routes. Relevant samples will be collected from beef herds with and without DD and will be assayed against DD treponeme antigen to determine beef cattle’s immune response to DD treponemes.

This project will enable the implementation of better preventative measures against DD within the farm environment through a better understanding of DD treponemes, their carriage sites and environmental risk factors associated with the disease.

Additionally, understanding beef cattle exposure and immune response to DD should aid in future vaccine design.

Final report - Identifying the infection reservoirs of digital dermatitis in beef cattle and sheep

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