Growth curves and morphology of three Treponema subtypes isolated from digital dermatitis in cattle.Vet J. 2012 Sep; 193(3):685-93.VJ
Digital dermatitis (DD) is an infectious claw disease of cattle that causes painful lesions, principally along the coronary band of the claws. In the US alone, the estimated economic impact of DD is estimated to be $190 million. The etiology of DD remains unclear and there is no reliable laboratory test, so DD is most often diagnosed clinically. Spirochetal bacteria of the genera Treponema have been implicated in DD infections following their isolation using culture techniques, serological detection of bovine antibodies against treponemes, and amplification of treponemal 16s DNA sequences by PCR. During in vitro growth of spirochetes and treponemes isolated from DD, morphological changes have been observed indicating the presence of a spiral form and an encysted form. It is not known why encysted forms appear or what role they have in the progression of DD. The current study established growth curves for three subtypes of treponemes, Treponema denticola-like, Treponema phagedenis-like, and Treponema medium-like, while photographically monitoring changes in morphology. In addition to observing spiral and encysted forms, two intermediate forms were also observed. These appeared as either spiral forms with spherical bodies or as enveloped clusters of granules. The observation of encysted forms adds further support to the theory that treponemes causing recurrent infections deep in bovine skin have mechanisms to facilitate persistence and the chronic character of DD.