MASTERING COCCIDIOSIS: Cocci Clinic Series – Part 3

Prevention or Treatment? The Ultimate Strategy Against Coccidiosis

Written by Zamira Australia

Coccidia Infection & Treatment

Unlike bacteria and viruses, coccidia oocysts possess remarkable resistance to all sanitation measures, persisting in chicken houses and the surrounding environment for extended periods. Infection occurs through the ingestion of oocysts from chicken litter or the surrounding environment. While maintaining good sanitation in the poultry house is crucial for reducing oocyst infection load, it alone cannot prevent coccidia infection.

Coccidiosis outbreaks often necessitate treatment to minimise morbidity and mortality. Affected flocks suffer from poor growth rates and feed conversion efficacy, leading to significant economic losses.

Treatment of coccidiosis targets the second phase of the coccidia life cycle, where Eimeria invade poultry intestinal cells. 

Administering medication via drinking water proves most effective for chickens displaying clinical signs, as sick chickens are more likely to drink water than eat feed. The course of medication typically spans 3 to 5 days continuously to achieve optimal results.

Understanding the Science Behind Coccidiosis Prevention

Once coccidia invade the intestinal cells, damage is caused to the intestine, rendering poultry vulnerable to bacterial infections such as Clostridium perfringens. Furthermore, coccidia multiplication in intestinal cells leads to heavier coccidia burdens, increased clinical signs, and rapid transmission of the infecting Eimeria strain throughout the flock. 

Preventing or minimising coccidia invasion of poultry intestinal cells reduces damage to the intestine and lowers the transmission rate of coccidia within the flock. So, prevention significantly reduces coccidiosis clinical signs and the spread of the infection within the farm.

Ionophores are effective in killing coccidia in the intestinal lumen. Alongside maintaining proper sanitation in the chicken shed, incorporating ionophores into feed serves as a crucial tool to reduce coccidia invasion and subsequent coccidiosis. 

Why wait until your chickens are stricken with coccidiosis and illness is spreading throughout your flock to act? It’s far easier to control coccidiosis proactively than repair the damage afterward.

Anticoccidials for Coccidiosis Control

Anticoccidials for feed medication fall into two categories: chemicals and ionophores

Chemical anticoccidials arrest the development cycle of coccidian multiplication at the intracellular stage, after they have already invaded intestinal cells. Ionophores, on the other hand, destroy coccidia in the intestinal lumen, before they invade intestinal cells. 

Anticoccidial Resistance & Management

Resistance development to all anticoccidial drugs, particularly chemical anticoccidials, is common. While no immune response is expected with chemical anticoccidials, short-duration immune response can occur with ionophore anticoccidials. Immunity does not offer cross-protection among various coccidia strains infecting chickens.

To maintain the efficacy of anticoccidial drugs, resistance must be managed through rotation and shuttle programs for in-feed coccidiosis control programs.

Anticoccidial Rotation

Rotational programs involve using one anticoccidial for the entire broiler growing cycle or alternating between two or more products in successive flocks. The majority of rotation programs also incorporate a shuttle program, wherein a chemical anticoccidial is utilised in the starter or grower feed.

However, rotating between chemical anticoccidials is not recommended due to the risk of cross-resistance emergence. To prevent resistance development, chemical anticoccidials should be used for short periods, followed by a switch to an unrelated anticoccidial.

Ionophore anticoccidials are further classified into monovalent, monovalent glycosides and divalent types, based on their mechanism of action to kill coccidia in the intestinal lumen.  Rotating between these types effectively reduces resistance development.

Anticoccidial Shuttle

Shuttle programs involve using one anticoccidial in broilers for a set period followed by another anticoccidial within the same growing cycle. Shuttle programs can include ionophores-to-ionophores or chemicals-to-ionophores at approved dosages in feed.

Combining Anticoccidials

Combining anticoccidials can increase efficacy and minimise resistance by offering two mechanisms of action, one extracellular and the other intracellular.

Incorporate Zamira Products Into Your Anticoccidial Program

Zamira’s ZamiCocci range includes products within the chemical, ionophore and combination classes. All Zamira products can be incorporated into your anticoccidial rotation and shuttle programs.

Part 4: Conquering Resistance – experts strategies for long-term control. Coming soon!

In Part 4 of Zamira’s Cocci Clinic Series, we’ll share some practical insights into harnessing the power of ionophores and chemicals in the battle against coccidiosis. Plus, we’ll arm you with expert strategies for not just short-term relief but long-term control, all while minimising the looming threat of anticoccidial resistance.

Revisit Part 1: Navigating Coccidiosis – Understanding the Life Cycle & Best Practices for Management

Part 1 of Zamira’s Cocci Clinic Series takes you on a journey through the life cycle of this persistent pathogen, equipping you with the best practices for effective management.

Revisit Part 2: Decoding Coccidia – Spot the Tell-Tale Signs & Navigate Diagnosis for your Farm

In Part 2 of Zamira’s Cocci Clinic Series, we focus on the tell-tale signs of coccidiosis and show you how to navigate diagnosis for your farm.


Zamira is an Australian animal health company with a mission to improve the health, wellbeing and productivity of animals through prevention, detection and treatment . Read more about us here.

How can we help you?

Want to find out more about how to prevent and control coccidiosis in your flock? Zamira Australia has teams in Australia, South East Asia and South Asia who can work with you on a tailored solution to meet your needs. Fill out the form below and we’ll get in touch with you shortly.

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