ABSTRACT

Commonly found in backyard and commercial poultry production, coccidiosis, caused by Eimeria species, presents a self-limiting intestinal infection based on the number of ingested oocysts. Heat stress (HS) is one of the major environmental stressors in poultry, predisposing broiler chickens to immunosuppression and rendering them susceptible to diseases. There are suggestions that HS reduces Eimeria oocyst shedding in chickens; however, the relationship between HS and coccidiosis is not well elucidated. The objective of this study was to investigate the effect of temperature on viability, morphology, infectivity, and development of Eimeria tenella in vitro, and merozoite production and oocyst shedding in vivo. In vitro exposure of sporozoites to 55 C for at least 60 min reduced sporozoites viability as shown by morphological changes and rendering them unable to invade Mardin-Darbi bovine kidney (MDBK) cells. Intracellular development of merozoites was significantly reduced by an increase in 2 C in the optimal temperature of incubation in vitro. Most importantly, the induction of HS in the live chickens caused significantly lower lesion scores, reduced merozoite production, and oocyst shedding, resulting in a much less severe disease outcome.

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