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Studies on the biology of the avian species of Eimeria are currently benefiting from the availability of a comprehensive sequence for the nuclear genome of Eimeria tenella. Allied to some recent advances in transgenic technologies and genetic approaches to identify protective antigens, some elements are now being assembled that should be helpful for the development of a new generation of vaccines. In the meantime, control of avian coccidiosis by vaccination represents a major success in the fight against infections caused by parasitic protozoa. Live vaccines that comprise defined populations of oocysts are used routinely and this form of vaccination is based upon the long-established fact that chickens infected with coccidial parasites rapidly develop protective immunity against challenge infections with the same species. Populations of wild-type Eimeria parasites were the basis of the first live vaccines introduced around 50 years ago and the more recent introduction of safer, live-attenuated, vaccines has had a significant impact on coccidiosis control in many areas of the world. In Europe the introduction of vaccination has coincided with declining drug efficacy (on account of drug resistance) and increasing concerns by consumers about the inclusion of in-feed medication and prospects for drug residues in meat. The use of attenuated vaccines throughout the world has also stimulated a greater interest in the vaccines that comprise wild-type parasites and, during the past 3 years worldwide, around 3x10(9) doses of each type of vaccine have been used. The need for only small numbers of live parasites to induce effective protective immunity and the recognition that Eimeria spp. are generally very potent immunogens has stimulated efforts to develop other types of vaccines. None has succeeded except for the licensing, within several countries in 2002, of a vaccine (CoxAbic vaccine; Abic, Israel) that protects via the maternal transfer of immunoglobulin to the young chick. Building on the success of viral vaccines that are delivered via the embryonating egg, an in ovo coccidiosis vaccine (Inovocox, Embrex Inc.) is currently in development. Following successful field trials in 2001, the product will be ready for Food and Drug Administration approval in 2005 and a manufacturing plant will begin production for sale in late 2005. Limited progress has been achieved towards the development of subunit or recombinant vaccines. No products are available and studies to identify potential antigens remain compromised by an absence of effective in vitro assays that correlate with the induction of protective immunity in the host. To date, only a relatively small portfolio of molecules has been evaluated for an ability to induce protection in vivo. Although Eimeria are effective immunogens, it is probable that to date none of the antigens that induce potent protective immune responses during the course of natural infection has been isolated.

Original publication




Journal article


Adv Parasitol

Publication Date





285 - 330


Animals, Antigenic Variation, Antigens, Protozoan, Chickens, Coccidiosis, Eimeria, Host-Parasite Interactions, Life Cycle Stages, Mice, Poultry Diseases, Protozoan Vaccines, Vaccination, Vaccines, Attenuated, Vaccines, DNA