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Clinical and microbiological observations on caprine and ovine dermatophilosis.


Dermatophilosis also known as cutaneous streptothricosis, lumpy wool disease, mycotic dermatitis, proliferative dermatitis, rain scald, senkobo disease, strawberry foot root is an infectious actinomycetic disease of animals and also humans (Pal, 1995; Pal and Rao, 1998; Pal, 2007 and Radostits et al., 2007). The disease is caused by Dermatophilus congolenseis, a Gram positive, non-acid fast, non-capsulated, non-spore forming, pleomorphic, facultative anaerobic actinomycete (Gordon, 1964 and Pal, 2007). The organism can survive for 13 years in dry scab material kept at room temperature (Radostits et al., 2007). D. congolensis has a wide host range affecting domestic, pet, farm, wild and aquatic animals (Pal, 1989; Zaria, 1993; Acha and Szyfres, 2001; Kahan and Line, 2005 and Pal, 2007). Dermatophilosis which can occur in sporadic and epidemic form is worldwide in distribution and has been reported from many countries including Ethiopia and India (Singh and Murty, 1978; Pal, 1989; Nagpal et al., 1995; Pal, 1995; Samuel et al., 1998; Admasu and Alemu, 2011 and Abdo and Pal, 201 3). The disease occurs most frequently in humid tropical and sub-tropical regions where rainfall is abundant (Pal, 2007). The minor trauma or maceration of skin due to prolonged wetting may help in establishment of infection (Radostits et al., 2007). The role of arthropods as mechanical vector in spread of disease between animals is also reported (Pal, 2007 and Abdo and Pal, 2013). The paucity of published information on dermatophilosis in small ruminants from this region prompted authors to report the clinical, microbiological and therapeutic observations on Dermatophilus congolensis infection in goats and sheep. In addition, efficacy of cytological examination of fresh crusts/scabs by Giemsa technique in rapid diagnosis of dermatophilosis is also delineated.

Materials and Methods

Sixteen small ruminants which included 9 goats and 7 sheep clinically diagnosed as dermatophilosis based on skin lesions formed part of this investigation. The crusty and scaly material collected aseptically from skin lesions of these animals were examined in laboratory by using direct microscopy as well as cultural isolation. The evidence of minor traumatic injury was noticed in 7 goats and 4 sheep. The crusts and scabs collected aseptically from diseased goats and sheep in sterilized petri dishes were sent to Microbiology and Veterinary public health department for isolation and identification of causative agent. Each specimen was put to cytological examination after staining with Giemsa technique. The smears were examined under oil immersion by using binocular microscope. The clinical material was cultured on to plates of blood agar and Sabouraud dextrose medium and incubated at 37 degree centigrade (Quinn et al., 2002). The isolates were purified and subjected to biochemical tests for detailed identification (Gordon, 1964). All affected goats and sheep were treated with oxytetracycline (10 mg per kg body weight) intramuscularly for 3 to 5 days depending on severity of disease. Each animal was followed up after four weeks of treatment for relapse, if any. We did not conduct any microbiological screening of animals after therapy.


All the affected animals showed discrete or confluent scabby/crusty lesions on skin of various parts of body particularly on back, face, head and neck. In goats, lesions were mainly seen on head and face. The lesions in 1 male goat were also noticed on feet, scrotum and inside thighs. The hard crusts which were roughly circular and thick were distributed over the backline and could be palpated in fleece of sheep. The muzzle, face, ear and scrotum was involved in one ram. The loss of wool in patches was noticed in three sheep. The extensive lesions were encountered in two lambs. There was no evidence of systemic involvement as body temperature; pulse rate and respiration in 16 animals were in normal range. All 9 goats and 7 sheep had normal appetite, urination and defecation. The direct cytological examination of Giemsa stained smears revealed thin branched filaments and coccal zoospores in parallel lines giving characteristic appearance of D. congolensis. The clinical specimens when cultured on to blood agar yielded grey whitish, yellowish, convex, dry and rough (tooth shaped) colonies. The colonies on blood agar were firmly adherent to medium and also showed haemolysis. However, there was no growth on Sabouraud dextrose agar. The isolates of D. congolensis were catalase and urease positive but failed to reduce nitrate. Acid was produced from glucose. The therapy with oxytetracycline showed good response in all animals.


Dermatophilosis was first time recorded in 1915 by Van Saceghem in cattle in Belgian Congo (Cited by Pal, 2007). Later investigations from different parts of world reported the disease in many species of animals including buffaloes, goats, horses, sheep and deer (Pal and Matsusaka, 1993; Nagpal et al., 1995; Pal and Madhu Rao, 1998; Acha and Szyfres, 2001; Kahan and Line, 2005; Radostits et al., 2007; Abdo and Pal, 2013). In Africa, the disease in cattle and sheep causes great economic loss to livestock industry due to damage to hide, skin and wool. It is important to mention that damage to fleece causes up to 30% loss of wool and 40% loss of the skin value (Radostits et al., 2007). In the present investigation, clinical, microbiological and therapeutic observations unequivocally confirmed that all 16 animals which comprised of 9 goats and 7 sheep were suffering from dermatophilosis. As small ruminants are kept by poor farmers as a source of their livelihood, presence of D. congolensis infection will certainly results severe losses of wool and skin. Several antibiotics are available for treatment of disease in animals (Kahan and Line, 2005; Radostits et al., 2007; Abdo and Pal, 2013). In present case, oxytetracycline was administered by intramuscular route to successfully treat all cases of dermatophilosis in small animals and none of animals when followed after four weeks of treatment did not show any relapse.

The correct and early diagnosis is highly imperative to start specific therapy to combat disease. A number of techniques which include microbiological, immunological (agar gel immunodiffusion, counterimmuno electro phoresis, ELISA, FAT), histopathological and molecular are available to confirm diagnosis of dermatophilosis (Makinda and Majiyabe, 1982; Pal, 2007; Shaibu et al., 2011). We used direct microscopy with Giemsa stain and cultural isolation on blood agar for diagnosing disease in 1 6 small animals. Our limited experience indicated that cytological examination of crusts/ scabs is most simple and less expensive practical diagnostic test which can be easily employed in the Veterinary clinics in remote areas where laboratory facilities of isolation of pathogen are not available. It is important to differentiate the disease from contagious ecthyma, dermatophytosis (ringworm), pediculosis, scabies and staphylococcal dermatitis by using standard laboratory techniques.

The zoonotic importance of D. congolensis infection was established by Dean et al. (1961). Since then, sporadic reports of human infection by this actinomycetic agent is reported by other investigators from many regions of world (Kaminski and Suter, 1976; Zaria, 1993; Pal, 1995; Acha and Szyfres, 2001). One Veterinarian who was working with infected sheep acquired infection (Radostits et al., 2007). In the present study, one 18 year old male narrated that he developed pimples and pustules on right hand and forearm probably from his diseased goat. As we did not collect the clinical specimen from goat handler for microbiological investigation, zoonotic implication of D. congolensis, however could not be proved. Since dermatophilosis is of public health significance, it is recommended that the person with abrasion or minor trauma or skin wound should not handle the diseased livestock with bare hands. It is highly imperative to use disposable gloves while attending the animals with skin lesions.


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Jewaro Abdo and Mahendra Pal (1)

Department of Clinical Studies

College of Veterinary Medicine and Agriculture

Addis Ababa University

P.B. No.34

Debre Zeit, Ethiopia

(1.) Department of Microbiology and Corresponding

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Title Annotation:Clinical Article
Author:Abdo, Jewaro; Pal, Mahendra
Publication:Intas Polivet
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:9INDI
Date:Jul 1, 2013
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