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Eimeria maxima, the most immunogenic of the Eimeriidae that infect the chicken, is characterized by the presence of antigenic diversity within field isolates. In priming/challenge experiments immunity to homologous infection is essentially complete while immunity against challenge by a heterologous strain is often only partial. The phenotype "escape from immune protection" is known to be influenced by both host and parasite genotypes but the impact of varied immunization dose and schedule remains poorly documented. In this manuscript we report that an immunizing dose between <or=5 and <or=20 sporulated E. maxima oocysts is consistently capable of stimulating complete (>99.99%) protective immunity against challenge by 100 oocysts of a homologous strain. In contrast, complete immunity against a heterologous strain was never observed, although increasing the immunizing dose size did frequently reduce oocyst production arising from subsequent heterologous challenge. Differences in cross-protective immunizing capacity between two strains of E. maxima were evident as the H strain consistently stimulated a more potent protective immune response than the W strain. Similarly, increasing the number of immunizing doses of the E. maxima W strain (but not the H strain) increased immune protection against subsequent heterologous challenge. When combined with previously published data the results described here suggest that the E. maxima genome encodes a pool of antigens that are capable of stimulating an immune response cross-protective against more than one strain. These antigens supplement a separate restricted pool of antigens that are capable of stimulating stronger, but strain-specific, protective immune responses.

Original publication




Journal article


Avian Pathol

Publication Date





489 - 494


Animals, Antigens, Protozoan, Chickens, Coccidiosis, Eimeria, Feces, Immunization Schedule, Oocysts, Poultry Diseases, Protozoan Vaccines, Specific Pathogen-Free Organisms