We report the first study of the bacterial microbiome of ovine interdigital skin based on 16S rRNA by pyrosequencing and conventional cloning with Sanger-sequencing. Three flocks were selected, one a flock with no signs of footrot or interdigital dermatitis, a second flock with interdigital dermatitis alone and a third flock with both interdigital dermatitis and footrot. The sheep were classified as having either healthy interdigital skin (H), interdigital dermatitis (ID) or virulent footrot (VFR). The ovine interdigital skin bacterial community varied significantly by flock and clinical condition. The diversity and richness of operational taxonomic units was greater in tissue from sheep with ID than H or VFR affected sheep. Actinobacteria, Bacteriodetes, Firmicutes and Proteobacteria were the most abundant phyla comprising 25 genera. Peptostreptococcus, Corynebacterium and Staphylococcus were associated with H, ID and VFR respectively. Sequences of Dichelobacter nodosus, the causal agent of ovine footrot, were not amplified due to mismatches in the 16S rRNA universal forward primer (27F). A specific real time PCR assay was used to demonstrate the presence of D. nodosus which was detected in all samples including the flock with no signs of ID or VFR. Sheep with ID had significantly higher numbers of D. nodosus (104-109 cells/g tissue) than those with H or VFR feet
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