The bovine foot skin microbiota is associated with host genotype and the development of infectious digital dermatitis lesions

V. Bay, A. Gillespie, E. Ganda, N. J. Evans, S. D. Carter, L. Lenzi, A. Lucaci, S. Haldenby, M. Barden, B. E. Griffiths, E. Sánchez-Molano, R. Bicalho, G. Banos, A. Darby, G. Oikonomou*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
24 Downloads (Pure)


BACKGROUND: Bovine Digital Dermatitis (BDD) is a prevalent infectious disease, causing painful foot skin lesions and lameness in cattle. We describe herein the bovine foot skin microbiota and its associations with BDD using 16S rRNA gene amplicon and shotgun metagenomic sequencing on samples from 259 dairy cows from three UK dairy farms. RESULTS: We show evidence of dysbiosis, and differences in taxonomy and functional profiles in the bovine foot skin microbiome of clinically healthy animals that subsequently develop BDD lesions, compared to those that do not. Our results suggest that taxonomical and functional differences together with alterations in ecological interactions between bacteria in the normal foot skin microbiome may predispose an animal to develop BDD lesions. Using genome-wide association and regional heritability mapping approaches, we provide first evidence for interactions between host genotype and certain members of the foot skin microbiota. We show the existence of significant genetic variation in the relative abundance of Treponema spp. and Peptoclostridium spp. and identify regions in the bovine genome that explain a significant proportion of this variation. CONCLUSIONS: Collectively this work shows early changes in taxonomic and functional profiles of the bovine foot-skin microbiota in clinically healthy animals which are associated with subsequent development of BDD and could be relevant to prevention of disease. The description of host genetic control of members of the foot skin microbiota, combined with the association of the latter with BDD development offer new insights into a complex relationship that can be exploited in selective breeding programmes. Video Abstract.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4
Issue number1
Early online date10 Jan 2023
Publication statusFirst published - 10 Jan 2023

Bibliographical note

© 2023. The Author(s).


  • Female
  • Cattle
  • Animals
  • Digital Dermatitis/microbiology
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S/genetics
  • Genome-Wide Association Study
  • Cattle Diseases/microbiology
  • Communicable Diseases
  • Microbiota/genetics
  • Genotype


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