Footrot is a contagious disease of small ruminants which is caused by the bacterium Dichelobacter nodosus. In its virulent form there are severe economic losses and a very significant animal welfare issue. Sheep and goats can be vaccinated for treatment and prevention of the disease. There are 10 different serogroups of D. nodosus (A-I and M) and immunity is serogroup-specific. When all 10 serogroups are presented together in a vaccine, protection persists for only a few months due to "antigenic competition". Consequently we evaluated the use of sequential monovalent or bivalent vaccines to control/eliminate/eradicate virulent footrot in a longitudinal intervention study on 12 commercial farms in southeast Australia with flock sizes of approximately 1200-4200 sheep. Overall, virulent footrot was eradicated from 4 of the flocks, 2 of which had 2 serogroups, and the others 4 or 5 serogroups. Where there were only 1 or 2 serogroups (3 farms) the clinical response was rapid and dramatic; prevalence was reduced from 45 to 50% before vaccination to 0% (2 farms) or 0.4% (1 farm) after one round of vaccination. In the remaining 9 flocks there were more than 2 serogroups and successive bivalent vaccines were administered leading to eradication of virulent footrot on 2 farms over 4 years and control of the disease on all but 3 of the others. Of the latter farms, 1 discontinued, and 2 initially had poor response to vaccine due to misdiagnosis of serogroup 'M', which was previously unknown in Australia. Control was achieved after administration of a serogroup M vaccine. These results provide clear evidence for control, elimination and eradication of virulent footrot by outbreak-specific vaccination in Australia.
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