Pilot trials: serogroup-specific vaccination

Pilot trials were conducted in two Australian sheep flocks to evaluate the use of serogroup-specific whole-cell vaccines for the control and elimination of ovine footrot. Footrot was eliminated from two flocks by means of serogroup-specific vaccination coupled with the culling of a small percentage of non-responders.

Dhungyel, O. P., Lehmann, D. R., Whittington, R. J. 2008, ‘Pilot trials in Australia on eradication of footrot by flock specific vaccination’, Veterinary Microbiology 132(3), pp. 364-371.


Footrot is a contagious disease of ruminants requiring strains of Dichelobacter nodosus that possess virulence factors including proteases and fimbriae. Sheep can be immunised against footrot using vaccine-containing fimbriae, either native or recombinant. The fimbriae are responsible for the serological K-agglutination reaction, which has been used to classify field isolates into nine major serogroups. The range of protection conferred by vaccination is largely restricted to the serogroup involved, but antigenic competition precludes effective vaccination with multivalent vaccines that contain all serogroups. However, vaccination with specific bivalent recombinant fimbrial vaccine led to eradication of virulent footrot from small ruminants in Nepal and the same result was obtained in Bhutan using a specific whole cell vaccine. In the study reported here two pilot trials have been conducted in Australian sheep flocks, one with a virulent form of footrot caused by a single serogroup F, and the other with an intermediate form also caused by a single serogroup C. In trial 1 pre-vaccination prevalence of clinical footrot in a group of randomly selected animals was 44%. This reduced to 2% at 3 months and 0.5% at 4 months, and there were no clinical cases at 5 months or at 16 months post-vaccination in the whole flock. Similarly in trial 2 pre-vaccination whole flock prevalence was 8.5%, while it was 2% at 3 months, 0.3% at 6 months and zero at 18 months post-vaccination. Use of flock specific monovalent whole cell vaccines over whole flocks for only one season and culling of the few non-responders has been a successful approach in eradication of the disease from both these flocks. This is the first study to report the successful use of specific vaccine for the intermediate form of footrot.

If you would like a copy of the scientific publication, please send a request by email to: om.dhungyel@sydney.edu.au