Coccidiosis is an important disease in captive gamebirds, including northern bobwhites (Colinusvirginianus). Three Eimeria species, Eimeria lettyae, Eimeria dispersa, and Eimeria colini, have been described in bobwhites. Distinguishing the various Eimeria spp. is often problematic because of similarity in oocyst morphology and site of infection and thus requires live bird infections to distinguish between the coccidian species. To aid in identification and diagnosis, PCR specific primers were generated against the internal transcribed spacer region 1 (ITS-1) of the ribosomal RNA gene using sequences obtained from coccidian-positive samples collected from diagnostic cases or litter from captive bobwhites. Three distinct Eimeria spp. were detected. Species-specific primers were constructed and used to survey the prevalence of the species in 31 samples collected from 13 states. The primers survey results identified E. lettyae, E. dispersa, and Eimeria sp. in 20 (64.5%), 22 (71%), and 29 (93.5%) of the samples, respectively. Mixed infections were common: 13 (41.9%) samples had 3 Eimeria spp., 14 (45.2%) had 2 spp., and 4 (12.9%) samples had only 1 species. The species were widely distributed over the area sampled and were not associated with the age of the flock.
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Vol. 97 • No. 5