Coccidiosis is a parasitic disease in poultry that causes significant negative economic impacts on production due to severe intestinal injury. This results in poor nutrient absorption, causing increased mortality and morbidity, and reduced production efficiency.
Coccidiosis is an enteric disease caused by parasitic protozoa in the Eimeria genus. Part of the Eimeria life cycle includes invading intestinal epithelial cells, which damages and compromises the intestinal lining. The intestinal barrier is one of the first lines of defense against disease. Intestinal wall injury increases the likelihood of the invasion of pathogens and makes birds more susceptible to diseases like necrotic enteritis.
The Eimeria life cycle starts with ingestion of infectious oocysts from the litter, feces or contaminated water sources. Reproduction of Eimeria occurs within the host and involves acute invasion and destruction of the intestinal mucosa. Feces release the new oocysts back into the bird’s environment; then, under the right conditions, oocysts undergo further development to become infectious and the life cycle starts again.