Amy Gillespie

Institute of Infection and Global Health University of Liverpool 8 West Derby Street Liverpool L69 7BE


Professor Stuart Carter and Joseph Angell

I spent eight years working as a farm animal veterinary surgeon, first in commercial practice and then for the University of Liverpool in a clinical and teaching role in Livestock Health and Welfare. To date my emphasis has been on clinical research but frustrated with the lack of time and resources available to do meaningful projects, I moved on to studying for a PhD with the hope of learning techniques in microbiology and bioinformatics. I am always interested in how our research can be applied on farms and how we can communicate its importance with the farming industry.

Towards preventing transmission of digital dermatitis on dairy farms 

Digital dermatitis (DD) is a widespread infectious disease that causes lameness due to painful ulcerative lesions between the heel bulbs. This disease poses a significant threat to production and animal welfare and is therefore of interest to our industrial partner the Agricultural and Horticultural Development Board (AHDB).

Bacteria from the Treponema genus are recognised as important in the aetiology of DD. Treponemes have been identified on hoof trimming equipment, therefore, lack of hygiene during foot trimming poses an obvious transmission risk between animals and farms. This project will develop protocols for effective disinfection of hoof trimming equipment.

The project will also investigate reasons why DD responds poorly to current treatment and prevention methods. It is well known that in man treponemes can form biofilms, commonly seen as plaque on teeth. Cooperation and communication between bacteria in biofilms enable them to resist disinfectants and other antimicrobials. We propose that similar treponeme biofilms develop in DD and consequently, new approaches to treatment are needed.

The project has the following goals:

1. Develop a protocol for effective disinfection of hoof trimming tools to prevent transmission of digital dermatitis during foot care.

2. Investigate formation of biofilms by digital dermatitis treponemes and use transcriptomics to investigate which genes are important for biofilm formation and maintenance.

3. Test novel ways of disrupting these biofilms using biocides that prevent communication between bacteria.

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