Prevalence of footrot in Swedish slaughter lambs.
Background: Footrot is a world-wide contagious disease in sheep and goats. It is an infection of the epidermis of the interdigital skin, and the germinal layers of the horn tissue of the feet. The first case of footrot in Swedish sheep was diagnosed in 2004. Due to difficulties in distinguishing benign footrot from early cases of virulent footrot and because there is no possibility for virulence testing of strains of Dichelobacter nodosus in Sweden, the diagnosis is based of the presence or absence of clinical signs of footrot in sheep flocks. Ever since the first diagnosed case the Swedish Animal Health Service has worked intensively to stop the spread of infection and control the disease at flock level. However, to continue this work effectively it is important to have knowledge about the distribution of the disease both nationally and regionally. Therefore, the aims of this study were to estimate the prevalence of footrot in Swedish lambs at abattoirs and to assess the geographical distribution of the disease. Methods A prevalence study on footrot in Swedish lambs was performed by visual examination of 2000 feet from 500 lambs submitted from six slaughter houses. Each foot was scored according to a 0 to 5 scoring system, where feet with score ≥2 were defined as having footrot. Moreover, samples from feet with footrot were examined for Dichelobacter nodosus by culture and PCR. Results: The prevalence of footrot at the individual sheep level was 5.8%, and Dichelobacter nodosus was found by culture and PCR in 83% and 97% of the samples from feet with footrot, respectively. Some minor differences in geographical distribution of footrot were found in this study. Conclusions: In a national context, the findings indicate that footrot is fairly common in Swedish slaughter lambs, and should be regarded seriously.