Serological diagnosis of footrot – epidemiological study

This was the first comprehensive study to evaluate the potential of serological diagnosis of virulent footrot; sensitivity and specificity were evaluated in relevant populations of sheep with footrot and footrot-free sheep, while the persistence of vaccine-induced antibodies and colostral antibodies in lambs were also determined. 

Whittington, R. J. and Egerton, J. R. (1994) Application of ELISA to the serological diagnosis of virulent ovine footrot. Veterinary Microbiology, 41, 147-161. 10.1016/0378-1135(94)90144-9

Summary: The sensitivity and specificity of an ELISA that detects antibody in the serum of sheep against Dichelobacter nodosus was investigated. The sensitivity of the assay was determined in two trials in which sheep free of virulent footrot were exposed to a virulent strain of D. nodosus. In the first trial up to 96.6% of sheep that developed severe foot lesions were seropositive 2 weeks later. The proportion of seropositive sheep depended on the interval between exposure to D. nodosus and collection of blood samples and reached a maximum 6 weeks after exposure in the first trial and plateaued from 8 weeks after exposure in the second trial. Of sheep with severe lesions present for only 1 week, 40.0% became seropositive, while 98.3% of sheep with severe lesions present for 3 or more weeks became seropositive in Trial 1. Of the unexposed control sheep from the same flock, 93.3% remained seronegative. At least 75% of sheep that were vaccinated with commercial footrot vaccines remained seropositive for at least 24 months after last vaccination and 58.5% remained seropositive for at least 36 months. The specificity of the assay in flocks of sheep from different geographical regions was determined also. Overall, 95.2% of 2978 sheep free of virulent footrot were seronegative. However the rate of false positive serological reactions ranged from 1.6% to 11.3% between flocks and was higher in older sheep (7.0%) compared with sheep less than 1.5 years old (2.7%). Passively acquired colostral antibodies against D. nodosus were measured in 22 lambs and did not persist beyond 55 days mean age. Non-specific reactions with cross reactive antigens were proposed to explain age related changes in serological results. Applications of this ELISA in footrot control programmes are discussed.

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