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Research article2024Peer reviewedOpen access

Digital dermatitis in Swedish dairy herds assessed by ELISA targeting Treponema phagedenis in bulk tank milk

Roelofs, Lex; Frossling, Jenny; Rosander, Anna; Bjerketorp, Joakim; Belaghi, Reza Arabi; Hansson, Ingrid; Frosth, Sara


Background Digital dermatitis (DD) is a contagious hoof infection affecting cattle worldwide. The disease causes lameness and a reduction in animal welfare, which ultimately leads to major decreases in milk production in dairy cattle. The disease is most likely of polymicrobial origin with Treponema phagedenis and other Treponema spp. playing a key role; however, the etiology is not fully understood. Diagnosis of the disease is based on visual assessment of the feet by trained hoof-trimmers and veterinarians, as a more reliable diagnostic method is lacking. The aim of this study was to evaluate the use of an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) on bulk tank milk samples testing for the presence of T. phagedenis antibodies as a proxy to assess herd prevalence of DD in Swedish dairy cattle herds. Results Bulk tank milk samples were collected in 2013 from 612 dairy herds spread across Sweden. A nationwide DD apparent prevalence of 11.9% (8.1-14.4% CI95%) was found, with the highest proportion of test-positive herds in the South Swedish regions (31.3%; 19.9-42.4% CI95%). Conclusions This study reveals an underestimation of DD prevalence based on test results compared to hoof trimming data, highlighting the critical need for a reliable and accurate diagnostic method. Such a method is essential for disease monitoring and the development of effective control strategies. The novelty of ELISA-based diagnostic methods for DD, coupled with the disease's polymicrobial origin, suggests an avenue for improvement. Developing an expanded ELISA, incorporating antigens from various bacterial species implicated in the disease, could enhance diagnostic accuracy. The significance of this study is underscored by the extensive analysis of a substantial sample size (612). Notably, this investigation stands as the largest assessment to date, evaluating the application of ELISA on bulk tank milk for DD diagnosis at the herd level.


Lameness; Treponema phagedenis; Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay (ELISA); Diagnostics; Prevalence

Published in

BMC Veterinary Research
2024, Volume: 20, number: 1, article number: 168
Publisher: BMC