An experiment was conducted to investigate the effects of polysaccharide extracts (E) of two mushrooms, Lentinus edodes (LenE) and Tremella fuciformis (TreE), and an herb, Astragalus membranaceus (AstE), on the immune responses of chickens infected with Eimeria tenella. A total of 180 broiler chickens were assigned to nine groups: three groups were fed with each of the extracts (LenE, TreE, and AstE), three groups were fed with the extracts and immunized with live oocyst vaccine (LenE+V, TreE+V, and AstE+V), a group was immunized with the vaccine only, and there were two controls (E. tenella–infected and noninfected groups). The oocyst vaccine was given at 4 days of age, and the extracts (1 g/kg of the diet) were supplemented from 8 to 14 days of age. At 18 days of age, all birds except those in the noninfected group were infected with 9 × 104 sporulated oocysts. The results showed that at 7 days postinfection (p.i.), birds fed the extracts without vaccination had lower body weight (BW) gain than those given the vaccine only. However, the extracts in conjunction with the vaccine significantly enhanced BW gain of the infected chickens compared with the vaccine group. Of the three extracts, LenE and TreE showed a better growth-promoting effect. The extracts largely increased oocyst excretion of droppings during the primary response postvaccination. The cecal peak oocyst output and lesion scores measured at 7 days p.i. were higher in the groups fed the extracts than in the group immunized with the vaccine only, whereas those of the groups fed with the extracts and immunized with the vaccine were not significantly different from the vaccine group. Of the three extracts, both LenE- and AstE-fed groups showed lower cecal oocyst output. Thus, as compared with the extracts, the live, attenuated vaccine showed better results with significantly increased immune response in coccidial infected birds. The polysaccharide extracts may prove useful against avian coccidiosis, and, particularly when they are used in conjunction with vaccine, they have shown preliminary promise against the experimental coccidial infection.

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