Endemic disease molecular epidemiology and modelling: is footrot a multi-strain infection?

Project lead: Prof Laura Green

More than 3 million sheep are lame each year in the UK. The main cause of lameness is footrot; an infectious disease caused by the anaerobe Dichelobacter nodosus (D. nodosus). Footrot impacts on animal welfare, farm productivity and the sustainability of sheep farming in the UK, adversely affecting the drive for national and international food security.

This project aims to determine load, strain, serogroup and virulence profiles of D. nodosus communities and investigate the role of accessory species in the aetiology and pathogenesis of disease in unaffected and affected sheep flocks using studies focused on periods of change in the environment or management of footrot.

Results from these studies will be used to develop statistical and mathematical models of increasing complexity from foot to flock to improve our understanding of footrot. The ultimate aim is to identify flock specific control measures informed by mathematical models of the molecular epidemiology of D. nodosus.

Discover more about this project, which is being conducted in conjunction with the University of Warwick.

Research objectives

  • To understand the role of the presence and abundance of Dichelobacter nodosus and its virulence factors in flocks in temperate climates with constant presence, and almost constant disease spread.
  • To use mathematical modelling to theoretically simulate the colonization of feet, disease triggers and transmission between sheep in a range of situations and climates.
  • To test flock control strategies to evaluate the most successful at controlling footrot disease and transmission.

Outputs and impact

This project has resulted in the funding of a BBSRC competitive CASE studentship with AHDB Beef and Lamb, a BBSRC accelerating impact award and a BBSRC and AHDB Beef and Lamb MIBTP CASE studentship.

Data from this project has been presented at events including the BBSRC Animal Health Club (ARC) dissemination event (annually from 2015-2018) and the International Footrot Symposium, University of Warwick, September 2018.


  • Atia, J., Monaghan, E.M., Kaler, J., Purdy, K.J., Green, L.E. and Keeling, M.J. (2017). Mathematical modelling of ovine footrot in the UK: the effect of Dichelobacter nodosus and Fusobacterium necrophorum on disease dynamics. Epidemics, 21, pp. 13-20. doi: 10.1016/j.epidem.2017.04.001
  • Witt, J., Green, L.E. (2018). Development and assessment of management practices in a flock-specific lameness control plan: a stepped-wedge trial on 44 English sheep flocks. Preventative Veterinary Medicine, 157, pp. 125-133. doi: 10.1016/j.prevetmed.2018.06.013

Research team

Professor Laura Green, University of Birmingham
Dr Kevin Purdy, University of Warwick
Professor Matt Keeling, University of Warwick
Dr Emma Monaghan, University of Birmingham
Dr Jasmeet Kaler, University of Nottingham

Partner organisations and sponsors

BBSRC Animal Health Research Club (ARC)
University of Warwick