The acquisition of immunity to Eimeria maxima by chicks infected 18 hr after hatch with a single dose of 100 oocysts was investigated. In the first experiment, birds were moved each day to clean cages in order to prevent the possibility of secondary infection resulting from ingestion of oocysts passed in their feces. Immunity was measured at 4 wk of age by calculation of oocyst production following challenge with 500 oocysts or weight gain following challenge with 100,000 oocysts. Large numbers of oocysts were produced by infected birds following challenge, although numbers were significantly less than those from birds that had been reared in the absence of infection (susceptible controls). The weight gain of infected birds following challenge was significantly greater than that of susceptible controls but less than that of unchallenged controls. Thus, only partial protection had been acquired, whether parasite replication or body weight gain was used to assess the extent of immunity development. In a second experiment, acquisition of immunity at 4 wk by chicks infected 18 hr after hatch with 100 oocysts of E. maxima and reared in floor pens in contact with their droppings was investigated. Infected birds produced no oocysts following challenge, and weight gains were not significantly different from the unchallenged controls, which indicates that full immunity had developed by 4 wk. It is concluded that if oocysts of Eimeria species are used to vaccinate day-old chicks, reinfection by oocysts present in the litter is necessary for the establishment of protective immunity.
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Vol. 49 • No. 3