ABSTRACT

Footrot is a worldwide economically important, debilitating disease caused by Dichelobacter nodosus. In sheep (Ovis aries), it is characterized by lesions of varying severity, depending on the strain, whereas Alpine ibex (Capra ibex) seem to develop severe lesions, whatever the strain. Healthy carriers occur in livestock but are rare in wild ruminants. Using a triangulation approach (retrospective questionnaire survey, necropsy database screening, and pathogen prevalence estimation in selected ibex colonies with and without footrot), we aimed at evaluating the importance of footrot in the ibex population, identifying potential risk factors for disease occurrence in this species, and defining the epidemiological role of ibex. Our study revealed that footrot occurs throughout the entire ibex territory (34% of the Swiss ibex colonies affected) but only as a sporadic disease (mostly one case per disease event), although the situation differed among footrot-positive colonies because half of them had experienced outbreak recurrences. Risk factor analysis for the occurrence of footrot in ibex colonies suggested an absence of an effect of meteorologic conditions, region, contacts with sheep or cattle (known to be very common healthy carriers of D. nodosus) and existing local disease control program. We found a significant effect only of contacts with sheep having footrot. Pathogen prevalence was very low in all investigated colonies. In conclusion, our results support previous data suggesting that ibex are susceptible spillover hosts, likely infected mainly by sympatric sheep displaying clinical signs.

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