Intestinal coccidiosis, caused by various species of Eimeria, has become an economically important disease of poultry and livestock throughout the world. Infection of chickens starts after ingestion of oocysts when sporozoites penetrate the epithelium of the villi. After passage through the lamina propria, they enter crypt epithelial cells where they undergo several rounds of asexual and sexual proliferation, thus forming merozoites and later, gametocytes. When macrogametes are fertilized by microgametes, oocysts are formed that are shed in the faeces. Nowadays, coccidiosis is prevented by anticoccidial drugs that are added to food, but the prolonged use of these drugs leads inevitably to the emergence of resistent Eimeria strains. During infection, there are three stages when the chicken immune system can inhibit parasitic development. The first is when the sporozoite searches for a site of penetration and binds to the epithelium. The second is when the sporozoite is in the villus epithelium amongst intra-epithelial leucocytes. The third is during its passage through the lamina propria to the crypt epithelium. To investigate this, the decisive factors in the induction and effector phase of immunity against coccidiosis have been investigated in situ, Our studies have revealed that three phenomena are responsible for immunity against Eimeria infections. First, the actual passage and presence of parasites in the lamina propria to induce immunity, Second, the sporozoite seems to be the most important parasite stage for immunity, and third, cytotoxic T cells are necessary to inhibit parasites.
- Eimeria tenella