Dichelobacter nodosus (formerly Bacteroides nodosus) is a Gram-negative strict anaerobe and is the primary pathogen involved in ovine footrot. A comparative hybridization strategy was used to isolate recombinant clones which hybridized to DNA from a virulent strain of D. nodosus but not with a benign isolate. Three virulence-associated gene regions were identified and one of these regions was shown to be present in multiple copies in the D. nodosus genome. Hybridization studies on 101 clinical isolates of D. nodosus showed that these strains could be divided into three hybridization categories which could be correlated with the virulence of the isolates. The recombinant clones have considerable potential for the development of a gene-probe-based method for the differential diagnosis of ovine footrot.