The purpose of this study was to compare micro-oocyst counts of Eimeria to PCR analysis of intestinal DNA from smears of duodenum, jejunum/ileum, and cecum of chickens infected with Eimeria acervulina, Eimeria maxima, or Eimeria tenella oocysts. Broiler chicks were infected in triplicate with various doses of E. acervulina, E. maxima, or E. tenella oocysts and were necropsied 5–6 days later to recover duodenal, jejunal, or cecal tissue for micro-oocyst count and for DNA recovery. Micro-oocyst counts were done independently by three individuals. Micro-oocyst counts and PCR directed to ITS1 rDNA or to a single-copy orthologue (SCO 5995) displayed a linear relationship with oocyst dose for each Eimeria species. A strong correlation was found between mean micro-oocyst counts and both PCR assays for E. acervulina (r = 0.78–0.94), E. maxima (r = 0.79–0.91), and E. tenella (r = 0.85–0.96). There was good agreement between ITS1 and SCO 5995 PCR assays: E. acervulina (r = 0.92), E. maxima (r = 0.79), and E. tenella (r = 0.93). However, only ITS1 PCR analysis corroborated micro-oocyst counts of Eimeria oocyst DNA recovered from Eimeria-infected broiler chickens submitted to a poultry diagnostic laboratory. These findings suggest that ITS1 PCR or SCO PCR can validate traditional micro-oocyst counts used in quantifying Eimeria infection in chickens. Additional studies may provide a method for estimating the relative abundance of each Eimeria species in a natural infection.

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