Tel.+49 30 83 8-518 40/518 43 Fax.+49 30 838 45 18 51
Digital dermatitis (DD) of cattle leads to lameness and a decrease of milk production and is responsible for major economic losses worldwide. Although a bacterial aetiology is generally accepted, it still is unclear which microorganisms cause and/or maintain the disease. Recently, a previously undiscovered bacterial species, Guggenheimella bovis, has been isolated from the front of two DD lesions in Swiss cattle and suggested as a potential pathogen. The aims of the present study were to determine the prevalence of G. bovis in 58 German cows suffering from DD via dot blot hybridization, and to analyse the spatial distribution of G. bovis within the affected tissue by fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH). A species-specific probe, GUBO1, was designed and evaluated. In none of the 58 samples Guggenheimella could be detected, while cultured G. bovis was reliably identified by GUBO1. Further FISH experiments were carried out on two additional biopsies of Swiss cattle tested positive for G. bovis by quantitative PCR and permitted visualization of the newly discovered bacteria in situ. In these biopsies G. bovis proved to be tissue invasive forming characteristic spherical microcolonies not only within the bacterial biofilm but also in seemingly unaffected parts of the tissue not yet reached by the advancing bacterial front. Although the presence of G. bovis does not constitute an essential premise for DD, it seems likely that the bacterial species involved in DD vary, and that in some cases G. bovis is crucial for the development of DD lesions.