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Epidemiological studies into the role of serogroup-specific vaccines to control footrot in sheep

Principal Supervisor: Professor Laura Green, School of Life Sciences

Non-academic partner: Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB)

Project Title: Epidemiological studies into the role of serogroup-specific vaccines to control footrot in sheep

University of registration: University of Warwick

Project outline:

Over 95% of sheep flocks in England have footrot. The current best control of footrot is to treat diseased sheep rapidly with antibiotics. This leads to rapid cure and reduces spread of disease but does not prevent repeated cases of disease and makes foot rot one of the most common reasons for using antibiotics in the sheep industry. Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture Alliance (RUMA), in conjunction with the sheep industry, are aiming to reduce the amount of antimicrobials used in the sheep sector by 10% by 2020. The five-point plan has been developed to help farmers control footrot; vaccination is one of the five points of the plan, however, the currently licensed vaccine against footrot (Footvax) is marginally effective’; it reduces prevalence of footrot by about 20%. Improving the efficacy of a footrot vaccine would reduce reliance and use of antimicrobials.

Footvax contains antigens from 9/10 of the serogroups of Dichelobacter nodosus (the causal agent of footrot); it is thought that the low efficacy of the vaccine is because of antigenic competition from the 9 antigens. Whilst all 9 serogroups of D. nodosus are present in the UK, flocks have varying numbers of serogroups and there is evidence from Australia that vaccination with only serogroups present in a flock is more effective than the 9 serogroup vaccine and, in addition, the fewer serogroups in a vaccine, the greater its efficacy.

There is a great need to investigate the value of serogroup-specific vaccines in UK flocks rigorously.

The aims of this project are:

  1. to investigate the efficacy of serogroup-specific vaccines to control footrot in sheep on farms with a range of number of serogroups of Dichelobacter nodosus per flock
  2. to understand the impact of vaccination on the incidence of footrot and prevalence of serogroups of D. nodosus by farm
  3. to estimate the economic impact of vaccination
  4. to estimate the potential national reduction in antibiotic used to treat sheep lame with footrot

In addition, the student will spend 3 months with AHDB developing their skills in communicating research to a range of stakeholders including farmers, vets, students and experts in the sheep industry.

Closing date for applications: 4th March 2018

Interview dates: TBC