PhD: Identifying infection reservoirs of digital dermatitis in dairy cattle


  Research Partner: University of Liverpool

  Start and end date: October 2013 - September 2017

   PhD Student: Jennifer Bell






Digital dermatitis (DD) is an infectious disease that forms ulcerative lesions usually found between the bulbs of the heel on the hind feet of dairy cattle.  The lesions can be very painful often resulting in lameness, making the disease an important welfare concern. Furthermore DD has significant economic implications for the dairy industry, particularly with regards to treatment costs. Bactria belonging to the Treponema genus are considered to be integral in disease initiation and progression. There is currently little known about how transmission of DD occurs which limits methods available for controlling the disease. My project aims to identify the infection reservoirs of DD and thus identify possible transmission routes of the disease; by understanding the relationship between dairy cows, DD associated treponemes and the dairy farm environment.


The project is split into four different studies:

  1. Development of an optimised DNA extraction technique to enable possible detection of DD associated treponemes in bovine faeces

  2. Survey of  dairy cow tissues and the dairy farm environment for the presence of DD associated treponemes

  3. Studies into the association of DD associated treponemes with tissue other than the lesions themselves

  4. Understanding the survival and growth of DD associated treponemes under different host and environmental conditions