Bacterial communities in footrot lesions

We investigated the changes in the bacterial community of the foot during the development of footrot lesions using microbiome technologies. We found consistent patterns in active lesions regardless of lesion severity.

Mcpherson, A. S., Dhungyel, O. P. and Whittington, R. J. (2019) The microbiome of the footrot lesion in Merino sheep is characterized by a persistent bacterial dysbiosis. Veterinary Microbiology, 236. 10.1016/j.vetmic.2019.08.001

Summary: Footrot is prevalent in most sheep-producing countries; the disease compromises sheep health and welfare and has a considerable economic impact. The disease is the result of interactions between the essential causative agent, Dichelobacter nodosus, and the bacterial community of the foot, with the pasture environment and host resistance influencing disease expression. The Merino, which is the main wool sheep breed in Australia, is particularly susceptible to footrot. We characterised the bacterial communities on the feet of healthy and footrot-affected Merino sheep across a 10-month period via sequencing and analysis of the V3-V4 regions of the bacterial 16S ribosomal RNA gene. Distinct bacterial communities were associated with the feet of healthy and footrot-affected sheep. Infection with D. nodosus appeared to trigger a shift in the composition of the bacterial community from predominantly Gram-positive, aerobic taxa to predominantly Gram-negative, anaerobic taxa. A total of 15 bacterial genera were preferentially abundant on the feet of footrot-affected sheep, several of which have previously been implicated in footrot and other mixed bacterial diseases of the epidermis of ruminants. Some, including Porphyromonas, can trigger a shift in the composition of bacterial communities and may therefore be of significance to the expression of footrot. A comparison of the communities in footrot lesions of different scores and at different times revealed that this state of dysbiosis is persistent at the active margins of lesions, irrespective of their severity. 

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