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Beyond antibiotics: the development of a phage cocktail to prevent and treat foot rot disease of sheep

Primary Supervisor: Dr Ed Galyov, Department of Respiratory Sciences

Secondary supervisor: Dr Andrew Millard

PhD project title: Beyond antibiotics: the development of a phage cocktail to prevent and treat foot rot disease of sheep

University of Registration: University of Leicester

Project outline:

Antimicrobial resistance is one of the most serious human and animal health threats. Antibiotics are extensively used across agricultural industries, but significant pressure is being applied by the regulators to reduce antibiotic use, in order to maintain an effective treatment portfolio for humans. The agricultural industry must achieve this without compromising animal health or welfare. That is why the development and implementation of novel disease treatment and prevention strategies, alternative to antibiotics use, are urgently needed.

The use of bacteriophages (phages) instead of or in addition to antibiotics is one of such strategies. In our previous work, we isolated and characterised phages targeting a very broad range of Salmonella strains affecting chickens and pigs and developed an effective phage cocktail formulated to be used as an animal feed additive to prevent Salmonella infections of the livestock (1-3). We now propose to extend this work and develop phage-based product to target lameness, an important bacterial disease of sheep.

Lameness, or sheep foot rot, is one of the most serious sheep health and welfare issues, with the cost of up to £80 million each year for the British sheep industry. It is caused by the two main bacterial pathogens, Dichelobacter nodosus and Fusobacterium necrophorum. Current treatment for lameness is largely comprised of the use of footbaths, often containing antibiotics, and injections of antibiotics.

The objectives of this project are:

  1. To isolate and comprehensively characterise virulent bacteriophages capable of infecting Dichelobacter nodosus and Fusobacterium necrophorum.
  2. To develop and formulate a phage cocktail targeting a broad range of Dichelobacter nodosus and Fusobacterium necrophorum
  3. To test phage cocktail for its effectiveness in a variety of model systems


  1. Phothaworn P, et al Characterization of Flagellotropic, Chi-Like SalmonellaPhages Isolated from Thai Poultry Farms. Viruses. 2019 Jun 5;11(6):520.
  2. Phothaworn P, et al. Development of a broad-spectrum Salmonella phage cocktail containing Viunalike and Jerseylike viruses isolated from Thailand. Food Microbiol. 2020 Dec;92:103586.
  3. Nale JY et al. An Optimized Bacteriophage Cocktail Can Effectively Control Salmonella in vitroand in Galleria mellonella. Front Microbiol. 2021 Jan 21;11:609955.

BBSRC Strategic Research Priority: Sustainable Agriculture and Food: Animal Health and Welfare & Understanding the Rules of Life: Microbiology

Techniques that will be undertaken during the project:

Collection of samples from the farm environment; bacterial culture; isolation and characterisation of phages; DNA sequencing and bioinformatic analysis; development and characterisation of phage cocktails and their testing in various model systems.

Contact: Dr Ed Galyov, University of Leicester