Virulent and benign strains of D. nodosus are genetically distinct

The genomes of 103 D. nodosus isolates from eight different countries were sequenced. An analysis of 31,267 single nucleotide polymorphisms (mutations) revealed that virulent and benign strains of D. nodosus are divisible into two genetically distinct clades (groups), irrespective of their geographic origin. Within each clade, isolates generally clustered according to their geographic origin.

Kennan, R. M., Gilhuus, M., Frosth, S., Seemann, T., Dhungyel, O. P., Whittington, R. J., Boyce, J. D., Powell, D. R., Aspan, A., Jorgensen, H. J., Bulach, D. M., Rood, J. I. 2014, ‘Genomic Evidence for a Globally Distributed, Bimodal Population in the Ovine Footrot Pathogen Dichelobacter nodosus‘, mBio 5(5)


Footrot is a contagious, debilitating disease of sheep, causing major economic losses in most sheep-producing countries. The causative agent is the Gram-negative anaerobe Dichelobacter nodosus. Depending on the virulence of the infective bacterial strain, clinical signs vary from a mild interdigital dermatitis (benign footrot) to severe underrunning of the horn of the hoof (virulent footrot). The aim of this study was to investigate the genetic relationship between D. nodosus strains of different phenotypic virulences and between isolates from different geographic regions. Genome sequencing was performed on 103 D. nodosus isolates from eight different countries. Comparison of these genome sequences revealed that they were highly conserved, with >95% sequence identity. However, single nucleotide polymorphism analysis of the 31,627 nucleotides that were found to differ in one or more of the 103 sequenced isolates divided them into two distinct clades. Remarkably, this division correlated with known virulent and benign phenotypes, as well as with the single amino acid difference between the AprV2 and AprB2 proteases, which are produced by virulent and benign strains, respectively. This division was irrespective of the geographic origin of the isolates. However, within one of these clades, isolates from different geographic regions generally belonged to separate clusters. In summary, we have shown that D. nodosus has a bimodal population structure that is globally conserved and provide evidence that virulent and benign isolates represent two distinct forms of D. nodosus strains. These data have the potential to improve the diagnosis and targeted control of this economically significant disease.