Bovine digital skin. (A) Digital dermatitis with severe acanthosis and pale staining, degenerated, ballooning keratinocytes (star) and inflammation of dermal papilla, arrow heads indicate borderline between vital and degenerated epidermis. H&E (bar = 1000 μm). (B) Similar lesion showing absence of normal keratin (star), borderline between vital and degenerated epidermis (arrow heads) (arrows: erythrocytes) (bar = 200 μm). (C) Subclinical digital dermatitis, foci with normal keratinized cells (arrow heads) and degenerated, ballooning keratinocytes (star) (bar = 50 μm). (D) Normal healthy skin, non-keratinized epidermis (star), stratum corneum (arrow head) (bar = 100 μm). (E) Skin biopsy showing moderate acanthosis and hyperkeratosis with foci of blue staining, ballooning keratinocytes and absence of normal keratinization (stars), (bar = 50 μm). (F) Skin biopsy with acanthosis but normal keratinized stratum corneum (star), (bar = 100 μm). B to F stained by the Ayoub-Shklar method for keratin.

Disease Mechanisms

Our research focuses on the characterization of microbial communities, the understanding of host pathogen interactions during infections, and on molecular approaches to vaccine development.

The objective is to get a deeper understanding of disease mechanisms. Knowledge that can be used in future management and better treatment of diseases. For example, we try to identify bacterial epitopes that can be applied in the development of effective vaccines resulting in increased animal welfare, better economy for farmers, and reduced antibiotics consumption.

We use techniques such as DNA microarrays, high-throughput DNA sequencing, real-time RT-PCR (including high-throughput qPCR, Fluidigm), fluorescence in situ hybridization, laser capture microdissection and cell infection models.

Research projects

Molecular characterization of endometritis in dairy cattle (Collaborators: University of Copenhagen)
Endometritis is an inflammation of the uterine lining and is often initiated after calving. It is still not clear whether the antimicrobial therapy used today is cost-effective. A PhD project investigates the bacterial etiology and interaction between the host and the bacteria associated with this disease, as well as the effect of treatment with antibiotics.

Pathogenesis and Immunity in Digital dermatitis (Collaborators: Department of Systems Biology DTU)
The ruminant disease Digital dermatitis is today the most important infectious disease of dairy cattle. Worldwide it is the cause of both reduced animal welfare and serious economic losses in dairy herds. Identification of significant antigens for the development of an efficient vaccine against  Digital dermatitiss complicated by the lack of culturing methods for isolating the causative bacteria from Digital dermatitis lesions.

In order to detect all potential antigens in a culture simultaneously and independently, we will sequence all the genes expressed from the complex collection of Digital dermatitis associated treponema and other bacteria found in the infected tissues. These will subsequently be screened for antibody reactivity using peptide-chip technology, and the result will thus integrate Systems Biology and immunoinformatics methods.

To elucidate the etiology of bovine Digital dermatitis, we use high-throughput sequencing to investigate the treponemal diversity in Digital dermatitis infections.

Detection of tick-borne pathogens
In a CoVetLab project headed by Section for Epidemiology at DTU-VET, high throughput quantitative PCR technology (Fluidigm) is applied to detect tick borne bacteria and parasites in Europe (Sweden, Denmark, The Nederland’s, England and France). We use a diagnostic chip, developed at ANSES, France. Using this platform it is possible to perform multiple detection of 26 tick borne bacteria and 13 parasites as well as 6 tick species. Simultaneous detection of multiple infectious pathogens in pools of ticks is a cost efficient tool for epidemiological investigations, for routine surveillance of low prevalent pathogens, and for systematic mapping of high prevalent tick-borne disease risks. Using this platform, it is now possible to test 48 to 96 different pools, each consisting of e.g. 25 individual ticks (e.g. a total of 1,150 ticks), against 48 different primer/probe sets in just a few hours. This permits standardized testing of large samples of ticks for all known tick-borne bacteria and parasites in Western Europe at unprecedented speed and low cost.

Senior Researcher

Kirstine Klitgaard Schou
Senior Researcher
+45 35 88 62 65