University of Arkansas, Fayetteville Division of Agriculture
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Abstract

Intestinal coccidiosis, caused by various species of Eimeria, is an economically important disease of chickens and turkeys. The peripheral blood leukocyte response and macrophage functions during a coccidial infection in turkeys have not been defined. To examine these aspects of innate immunity during primary Eimeria infection in turkeys, 4-week-old poults were orally inoculated with either 50,000 E. adenoeides oocyst (24 infected poults) or water (24 control poults). To monitor the concentrations and proportions of white blood cells (WBC) throughout the course of infection, heparinized blood was collected from 12 infected and 12 control poults prior to inoculation (day 0), and on days 4, 7, and 11 post-inoculation (PI). To study macrophage function, Sephadex-elicited abdominal exudate cells (macrophages) were collected on day 7 PI from 12 infected and 12 control poults. Macrophages were used to study phagocytosis of unopsonized and antibody-opsonized sheep red blood cells (SRBC), production of nitric oxide, and production of cytotoxic factors. E. adenoeides infection was associated with alterations in the concentration of WBC, including a decrease in the numbers of circulating lymphocytes on day 4 and a rise in lymphocytes and heterophils on day 11. Although phagocytic activity was not different in macrophages from infected and control poults, macrophages from infected poults exhibited greater cytotoxic activity. Data from these studies strongly suggest that components of innate immunity were recruited and activated during this primary infection of turkey poults with E. adenoeides. Further investigations are needed to determine the role of these components in limiting primary infection by E. adenoeides.

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