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Infect Immun. 2007 Sep;75(9):4400-8. Epub 2007 Jun 25.

Lesion formation and antibody response induced by papillomatous digital dermatitis-associated spirochetes in a murine abscess model.

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  • 1USDA, ARS, National Animal Disease Center, 2300 N. Dayton Ave., P.O. Box 70, Ames, IA 50010, USA. margaret.elliott@ars.usda.gov


Papillomatous digital dermatitis (PDD), also known as hairy heel wart, is a growing cause of lameness of cows in the U.S. dairy industry. Farms with PDD-afflicted cows experience economic loss due to treatment costs, decreased milk production, lower reproductive efficiency, and premature culling. While the exact cause of PDD is unknown, lesion development is associated with the presence of anaerobic spirochetes. This study was undertaken to investigate the virulence and antigenic relatedness of four previously isolated Treponema phagedenis-like spirochetes (1A, 3A, 4A, and 5B) by using a mouse abscess model with subcutaneous inoculation of 10(9), 10(10), and 10(11) spirochetes. Each of the PDD isolates induced abscess formation, with strain 3A causing cutaneous ulceration. Lesion development and antibody responses were dose dependent and differed significantly from those seen with the nonpathogenic human T. phagedenis strain. Strains 3A, 4A, and 5B showed two-way cross-reactivity with each other and a one-way cross-reaction with T. phagedenis. Strain 5B showed one-way cross-reactivity with 1A. None of the isolates showed cross-reactivity with T. denticola. In addition, distinct differences in immunoglobulin G subclass elicitation occurred between the PDD strains and T. phagedenis. From these data, we conclude that spirochetes isolated from PDD lesions have differential virulence and antigenic traits in vivo. Continuing investigation of these properties is important for the elucidation of virulence mechanisms and antigenic targets for vaccine development.

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