ISSN 2398-2993      

Treponema spp


Synonym(s): Bovine digital dermatitis (BDD)




  • Treponema are a genus of spiral-shaped bacteria.
  • Domain: bacteria.
  • Phylum: Spirochaetota.
  • Class: Spirochaetia.
  • Order: Spirochaetales.
  • Family: Treponemataceae.
  • Genus: Treponema.
  • Species: at least 20 phylotypes including:
    • T. medium/vicentii-like.
    • T. phagedenis.
    • T. pedis.
    • T. bryantii.
    • T. ruminis.
    • T. rectale.
    • T. refringens.
    • T. denticola.


  • Gk: trepein - turn; Gk: nema - thread.

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Clinical Effects



  • Natural reservoir remains unknown.
  • Skin maceration and wet, semi-anaerobic environment are predisposing habitats.


  • Transmission route and environmental reservoirs still remain unclear.

Pathological effects

Other Host Effects

  • Causes severe lameness in cattle as a result of inflammatory dermatitis of the digital skin. This is most often observed on the plantar aspect of the interdigital cleft.
  • Two types of lesions can be observed; erosive (more common in Europe) and wart (more common in North America) forms.
  • Can reduce milk yield and reduce reproductive performance.


Control via animal

  • Strict biosecurity procedures for new cattle entering herds.
  • Remedial foot trimming, cleaning of affected feet and application of antibacterial products.

Control via chemotherapies

  • Acute lesions can be treated topically using antibiotic powers/sprays containing oxytetracycline Oxytetracycline.

Control via environment

  • Prevent cattle access to moist, unhygienic conditions such as opportunity to walk through slurry.
  • Dedicated foot trimming equipment which is disinfected after each use.
  • Boot and equipment disinfection facilities for visitors entering the farm.


  • No vaccination available.


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Further Reading


Refereed Papers

  • Recent references from PubMed and VetMedResource.
  • Brodard I, Alsaaod M, Gurtner C et al (2021) A filter-assisted culture method for isolation of Treponema spp from bovine digital dermatitis and their identification by MALDI-TOF MS. J Vet Diagn Invest 33 (4), 801-805 PubMed.
  • Staton G J, Clegg S R, Ainsworth S et al (2021) Dissecting the molecular diversity and commonality of bovine and human treponemes identifies key survival and adhesion mechanisms. PLoS Pathog 17 (3), e1009464 PubMed.
  • Beninger C, Naqvi S A, Naushad S et al (2018) Associations between digital dermatitis lesion grades in dairy cattle and the quantities of four Treponema species. Vet Res 49 (1), 111 PubMed.
  • Demirkan I, Erdoğan M, Çevik Demirkan A et al (2018) Isolation and identification of Treponema pedis and Treponema phagedenis-like organisms from bovine digital dermatitis lesions found in dairy cattle in Turkey. J Dairy Sci 101 (11), 10317-10326 SciDirect.
  • Staton G J, Newbrook K, Clegg S R et al (2017) Treponema rectale sp. Nov., a spirochete isolated from the bovine rectum. Int J Syst Evol Microbiol 67 (7), 2470-2475 PubMed.
  • Clegg S R, Carter S D, Stewart J P et al (2016) Bovine ischaemic teat necrosis: A further potential role for digital dermatitis treponemes. Vet Rec 178, 71 WileyOnline.
  • Zinicola M, Lima F, Lima S et al (2015) Altered microbiomes in bovine digital dermatitis lesions, and the gut as a pathogen reservoir. PLoS One 10 (3), e0120504 PubMed.
  • Klitgaard K, Nielsen M W, Ingerslev H-C et al (2014) Discovery of bovine digital dermatitis-associated Treponema spp in the dairy herd environment by a targeted deep-sequencing approach. Appl Environ Microbiol 80 (14), 4427-4432 PubMed.
  • Evans N J, Timofte D, Isherwood D R et al (2012) Host and environmental reservoirs of infection for bovine digital dermatitis treponemes. Vet Microbiol 156 (1-2), 102-109 PubMed.
  • Evans N J, Brown J M, Demirkan I et al (2009) The association of unique, isolated treponemes with bovine digital dermatitis lesions. J Clin Microbiol 47 (3), 689-696 PubMed.
  • Evans N J, Brown J M, Demirkan I et al (2008) Three unique groups of spirochetes isolated from digital dermatitis lesions in UK cattle. Vet Microbiol 130 (1-2), 141-150 PubMed.
  • Nordhoff M, Moter A, Schrank K & Wieler L H (2008) High prevalence of treponemes in bovine digital dermatitis-a molecular epidemiology. Vet Microbiol 131 (3-4), 293-300 PubMed.
  • Holzhauer M, Hardenberg C, Bartels C J & Frankena K (2006) Herd- and cow-level prevalence of digital dermatitis in the Netherlands and associated risk factors. J Dairy Sci 89 (2), 580-588 PubMed.
  • Choi B K, Nattermann H, Grund S et al (1997) Spirochetes from digital dermatitis lesions in cattle are closely related to treponemes associated with human periodontitis. Int J Syst Bacteriol 47 (1), 175-181 PubMed.
  • Stanton T B & Canale-Parola E (1980) Treponema bryantii sp. nov., a rumen spirochete that interacts with cellulolytic bacteria. Arch Microbiol 127 (2), 145-156 PubMed.

Other sources of information

  • Radolf J D (1996) Treponema. In: Medical Microbiology. 4th edn. Ed: Baron S. Texas, USA. Website:

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Digital dermatitis

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