To appreciate and understand the reasons for the difficulty in control of coccidia infections in chickens, we asked Dr Balkar Bains some questions to get an understanding of other infections in chickens, as well as the most effective treatment methods.
Q: What are coccidia infections?
A: Coccidia infections in chickens are not the same as bacterial or viral infections. All other infections become blood born and circulate through internal organs including the liver, lungs and kidneys. Bacterial infections may be controlled using therapeutic bactericides however these treatments are not effective for viral infections. Both bacterial and viral infections generate an immune response that is protective against future infections from same source. Sanitation and disinfection measures are effective in elimination of both viruses and bacteria from the poultry house and its surrounding environment.
Q: How do coccidia infections affect poultry?
A: Coccidia infections are confined to the intestines and the site of infection varies between strains of coccidia. No coccidian enters the blood or any other internal organs.
The lifecycle of coccidia in poultry
Q: What are effective methods of treating coccidiosis?
A: Therapeutic measures, with the use of ionophore anticoccidials, are only effective in killing coccidia located in the lumen of the intestine. Once cellular penetration takes place, ionophore anticoccidials are ineffective in killing the sporozoites and thus create the potential for coccidia to replicate. Chemical anticoccidial drugs are effective only in the cellular phase, where these drugs interrupt the development cycle of coccidia.
Q: What is anticoccidial resistance?
A: Resistance development to all anticoccidial drugs is common and more so in chemical anticoccials. No immune response is expected when using chemical anticoccidials, but some immune response of short duration is expected through leakage of infection when using ionophore anticoccidials. Immunity is not cross protective among various strains of coccidia infecting chicken.
Q: Can coccidiosis be controlled with good farm hygiene?
A: Unlike bacteria and viruses, coccidia oocysts are resistant to all sanitation measures and have the potential to survive in the chicken house and surrounding environment for long periods. Infection readily takes place by ingestion of oocysts from chicken litter or surrounding environment.
Dr Balkar Bains has extensive experience in poultry farming in Australia and throughout Asia from a diagnostic lab and field perspective. With particular focus on optimizing health of broiler and breeder flocks, hatchability and fertility problems in the hatchery, hygiene and food safety issues, and disease prevention and treatment strategies.
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