November 2019

Background: Bovine digital dermatitis (BDD) is a painful infectious foot disease of cattle, and much evidence implicates a pathogenic role for treponemes. This study measured the survival of BDD treponemes on hoof knife blades and tested the efficacy of relevant disinfectants under laboratory conditions.

Methods: Two strains of BDD treponemes were applied to hoof knife blades under aerobic conditions. Swabs were taken at different time points (10 minutes, one hour, two hours, four hours and 18 hours) and again after 20-second disinfection time with one of five disinfectants. Swabs were used directly for nested PCR to detect treponemes or inoculated for anaerobic growth, and subsequently examined using phase contrast microscopy and PCR.

Results: BDD treponeme DNA was detectable by nested PCR at all survival time points, and these organisms were culturable from hoof knives for two hours after exposure under aerobic conditions in the laboratory. Three of the five disinfectants—1 per cent volume per volume (v/v) FAM30®, 2 per cent weight per volume (w/v) Virkon® or 2 per cent (v/v) sodium hypochlorite—were effective at preventing visible growth of treponemes following 20-seconds contact, and 1 per cent (v/v) FAM30® also prevented detection of treponemes by PCR.

Conclusion: Treponeme viability of two hours under aerobic conditions suggests BDD treponemes could be transmitted between cows on hoof knives. It is therefore important to apply a disinfection protocol during foot-trimming; the authors have identified three common disinfectants that may be suitable.


Amy Gillespie, Stuart D. Carter, Roger W. Blowey and Nicholas Evans