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The role of Fusobacterium necrophorum in sheep and the environment in the severity and persistence of footrot

Fusobacterium necrophorum is associated with footrot but its role in disease initiation and persistence is not fully understood. There are currently two proposed roles for F. necrophorum:

i. initial invasion of damaged skin, causing interdigital dermatitis and facilitating colonisation by Dichelobacter nodosus; and,

ii. increasing the severity of tissue damage and inflammation once footrot has occurred.

The source of F. necrophorum infection in ovine footrot is assumed to be environmental, but there is little evidence for the presence of F. necrophorum on pasture or in sheep faeces. It is also unknown whether, if present, it can persist in these sites. The aims of my research are:

  • To identify sites in the environment of sheep (foot skin/horn, gum, faeces, pasture) where F. necrophorum is present
  • To establish whether F. necrophorum persists at any of these sites
  • To compare the presence and persistence of F. necrophorum with the incidence and prevalence of footrot in feet, sheep and flocks
  • To compare the presence and persistence of F. necrophorum with the presence and persistence of D. nodosus

I will conduct longitudinal studies on two different farms to collect samples from sheep (foot swabs, mouth swabs and faeces) and their environment (soil and grass). To detect and quantify F. necrophorum in these samples I will use quantitative PCR (qPCR). I will also develop a strain typing method in order to study the diversity and persistence of F. necrophorum at different sites. The results of my research will increase our understanding of the role of F. necrophorum in the epidemiology of ovine footrot.


NERC CASE Studentship

AHDB Beef and Lamb Industrial CASE partner

Ruminant Research Bursary funded by MSD Animal Health

Medical & Life Sciences Research Fund

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Rachel Clifton

Research Assistant
School of Life Sciences
University of Warwick
Email:R dot Clifton dot 1 at warwick dot ac dot uk

You can also watch me explain my research during the final of the Warwick Three Minute Thesis competition