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A Trifecta of New Insights into Ovine Footrot for Infection Drivers, Immune Response, and Host-Pathogen Interactions

Blanchard, Adam M.; Staley, Ceri E.; Shaw, Laurence; Wattegedera, Sean R; Baumbach, Christina-Marie; Michler, Jule K.; Rutland, Catrin; Back, Charlotte; Newbold, Nerissa; Entrican, Gary; Tötemeyer, Sabine

A Trifecta of New Insights into Ovine Footrot for Infection Drivers, Immune Response, and Host-Pathogen Interactions Thumbnail


Ceri E. Staley

Laurence Shaw

Sean R Wattegedera

Christina-Marie Baumbach

Jule K. Michler

Charlotte Back

Nerissa Newbold

Gary Entrican


Footrot is a polymicrobial infectious disease in sheep causing severe lameness, leading to one of the industry’s largest welfare problems. The complex etiology of footrot makes in situ or in vitro investigations difficult. Computational methods offer a solution to understanding the bacteria involved and how they may interact with the host, ultimately providing a way to identify targets for future hypothesis-driven investigative work. Here, we present the first combined global analysis of bacterial community transcripts together with the host immune response in healthy and diseased ovine feet during a natural polymicrobial infection state using metatranscriptomics. The intratissue and surface bacterial populations and the most abundant bacterial transcriptomes were analyzed, demonstrating that footrot-affected skin has reduced diversity and increased abundances of not only the causative bacterium Dichelobacter nodosus but also other species such as Mycoplasma fermentans and Porphyromonas asaccharolytica. Host transcriptomics reveals the suppression of biological processes related to skin barrier function, vascular functions, and immunosurveillance in unhealthy interdigital skin, supported by histological findings that type I collagen (associated with scar tissue formation) is significantly increased in footrot-affected interdigital skin compared to outwardly healthy skin. Finally, we provide some interesting indications of host and pathogen interactions associated with virulence genes and the host spliceosome, which could lead to the identification of future therapeutic targets.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jun 16, 2021
Online Publication Date Jul 6, 2021
Publication Date 2021-10
Deposit Date Jul 1, 2021
Publicly Available Date Jan 7, 2022
Journal Infection and Immunity
Print ISSN 0019-9567
Electronic ISSN 1098-5522
Publisher American Society for Microbiology
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 89
Issue 10
Article Number e00270-21
Keywords Immunology; Microbiology; Parasitology; Infectious Diseases
Public URL
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