Oxytetracycline reduces inflammation and treponeme burden whereas vitamin D3 promotes β-defensin expression in bovine infectious digital dermatitis

Kaitlyn M. Watts, Priyoshi Lahiri, Rakel Arrazuria, Jeroen De Buck, Cameron G. Knight, Karin Orsel, Herman W. Barkema, Eduardo R. Cobo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Digital dermatitis (DD), a common ulcerative disease of the bovine foot causing lameness and reducing productivity and animal welfare, is associated with infection by spirochete Treponema bacteria. Topical tetracycline, the most common treatment, has inconsistent cure rates; therefore, new therapeutic options are needed. We compared effects of topical oxytetracycline and vitamin D3 on innate immunity in DD-affected skin. Cows with active DD lesions were treated topically with oxytetracycline or vitamin D3 and skin biopsies were collected from lesions. Tissue samples were examined histologically, transcriptional expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines, Toll-like receptors (TLRs), and host defense peptides assessed, and the presence of specific treponeme species determined. Effects of treatments at a mechanistic level were studied in a human keratinocyte model of treponeme infection. Oxytetracycline promoted hyperplastic scab formation in ulcerated DD lesions and decreased transcriptional expression of Cxcl-8 (neutrophil chemoattractant). Oxytetracycline also reduced numbers of Treponema phagedenis and T. pedis and enhanced Tlr2 mRNA expression. Vitamin D3 did not modify expression of cytokines or Tlrs, or bacterial loads, but enhanced transcription of tracheal antimicrobial peptide (Tap), a key bovine β-defensin. Combing oxytetracycline and vitamin D3 provides complementary clinical benefits in controlling DD through a combination of antimicrobial, immunomodulatory, and pro-healing activities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)337-348
Number of pages12
JournalCell and Tissue Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Cathelicidins
  • Cattle
  • Digital dermatitis
  • Interleukin 8
  • Oxytetracycline
  • Treponema spp
  • Vitamin D
  • β-Defensins

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Histology
  • Cell Biology


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