The importance of the length of immunity in the prevention of coccidiosis in chickens raised for a long cycle

When we think about the prevention of coccidiosis in chickens raised for a long cycle (breeders and layers) we cannot imagine any treatment other than vaccines. Apart from cost considerations, the use of coccidiostats has been always a handicap in birds that usually have restrictions on feed consumption. This is the reason why the protection conferred by a vaccine applied in the first days of life should be high enough to give a level of immunity that is able to protect them throughout the cycle.

Lesion-ScoresLesion scores of mid-intestine at 6 days post-challenge with E. necatrix. Lesion scoring grading 0-4 according to Johnson and Reid, 1970. Control vs EVALON® + HIPRAMUNE®T.

Layers and breeders have a production cycle of not less than 60 weeks in most cases. One of the main characteristics of these birds is that the rearing period in a normal poultry house is different to that in a production house.

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Coccidiosis in poultry: Innovation in vaccination with maximum traceability

In the world of livestock farming and animal protein production, the poultry industry has always been the sector with the greatest focus on achieving maximum control and information when it comes to the management of the production process and of the system for monitoring the medicinal products used in this process. HIPRA is going one step further along this path by offering a new vaccination concept, Smart vaccination, designed to provide improved vaccination monitoring and traceability for the prevention of coccidiosis in poultry.

From the early days of animal production, poultry farming has been in the vanguard of technology, feeding systems, farm automation, etc. Poultry production is one of the most advanced and streamlined of all the animal production sectors, guaranteeing all the quality standards demanded by the consumer in each market. A paradox exists, however: the processes associated with vaccination, unlike other parameters such as feeding, environmental conditions, etc., are beyond control.

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Attenuated strains in coccidiosis vaccines

With the currently increasing problems of drug-resistance and pressures from consumers to ban drugs from animal feeds, there is a pressing need to move away from chemotherapeutic control of coccidiosis towards vaccination. Most commercially available coccidiosis vaccines contain live oocysts of non-attenuated or attenuated strains of different Eimeria species, with the attenuated commercial vaccines produced using different attenuation methods.

The following video explains the process of attenuation of vaccine strains by precociousness:


As the world’s poultry production continues to grow, so do concerns about the control of Eimeria infections that cause coccidiosis, which remains one of the most commonly reported diseases of chickens. The ubiquity of chicken Eimeria precludes eradication so the key role in control of the disease is played by hygiene, anticoccidial drugs and vaccines.

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Eimeria biological cycle: an example of perfect complexity in biology

The Eimeria biological cycle is a very complex one and is comprised of intracellular, extracellular, asexual and sexual stages. It is of paramount importance its understanding as its comprehension helps to understand the parasite epidemiology in the field, its pathogenicity and immunobiology.


Seven species of Eimeria (E. acervulina, E. brunetti, E. maxima, E. mitis, E. necatrix, E. praecox and E. tenella) are recognized to be causative agents of coccidiosis in chickens of the genus Gallus gallus.

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Coccidiosis in poultry: challenges for the industry

Coccidiosis in poultry is one of the diseases that probably cause most damage in the broiler rearing industry. It is not a case of producing high mortality within flocks but a subclinical process affecting economic performance, greater use of antibiotics and a loss of environmental farm conditions that will probably affect animal welfare.


E. praecox in the duodenum: A type of coccidiosis that is not clinical but causes a decrease in growth and feed conversion.

Coccidiosis in poultry has become a truly complex disease that is not only an intestinal disease but also involves other issues that affect global production. In the past, coccidiosis was diagnosed as a clinical disease –even by the farmers- with coccidiosis caused by Eimeria tenella being the most simple example of this disease.

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Oocyst vaccine production: A challenge for animal health companies

Prevention of coccidiosis in poultry relies on live vaccines. Ionophores act as coccidiostasts by maintaining a certain level of contact with the oocyst parasite but vaccines are the only products that are able to generate a good level of specific immunity from the very beginning. Oocyst production in itself is a challenge for those companies producing vaccines

Vaccines have been considered as a method of control of coccidiosis since the early 1950s when the first products appeared. In view of the complexity of the immunity established to fight against the disease, it is necessary to work with the infective part of the parasite, i.e. the sporulated oocyst. This has been the mode of action of coccidiosis vaccines. The first vaccines were produced from pathogenic oocysts gathered in the field.


Microscopic picture (x400) of the oocysts of 5 species included in HIPRACOX® vaccine.

The oocysts were roughly processed to obtain a suspension containing a minimum quantity of sporulated oocysts. Obviously, at this time it was quite difficult to obtain a uniform number of these oocysts and the process of sporulation could not guarantee the number needed for complete immunization.

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Coccidiosis in chickens: It’s time for vaccination

Coccidiosis in chickens is one of the more common and widespread diseases. Since the beginning of the industrial production of broilers, veterinarians and farmers have been trying to control this costly parasite.


The annual cost is believed to be around $1.5 billion/year. The cost of coccidiosis in chickens is based on direct production losses and indirect costs through the application of control measures.

In the past, the fight against the different Eimeria species was through the use of several molecules in the food. The first chemicals used against coccidiosis in chickens were introduced in the 1950’s. It soon became clear that there were some efficacy problems with these molecules, in the sense that the Eimeria spp. present on the farms could develop resistance against them after they were used consecutively a couple of times on the same farm.

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