Experimental Toxoplasma gondii and Eimeria tenella co-infection in chickens
The widespread apicomplexan parasites Toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii) and Eimeria tenella (E. tenella) are important pathogens with high prevalence in poultry. The aim of our study was the investigation of mutual influences in co-infected chickens, focusing on immune response and course of infection. Two separate trials were performed using in total 96 1-day-old chickens, divided into four study groups: group NC (negative control, uninfected), group PC-T (oral or intramuscular infection with T. gondii oocysts (trial 1) or tachyzoites (trial 2), respectively), group PC-E (oral infection with E. tenella (trial 1) or E. tenella and Eimeria acervulina (trial 2)), and group TE (co-infection). T. gondii and Eimeria infections were validated by different parameters, and cytokine expression in the gut and spleen was investigated. T. gondii-specific antibodies were detected earliest 4 days post infection (p.i.) by immunoblot and direct DNA detection was possible in 22.1% of all tissue samples from infected chickens. Eimeria spp. merogony seemed to be enhanced by co-infection with T. gondii, interestingly without marked differences in oocyst excretion between co-infected and Eimeria spp. mono-infected chickens. An increase of messenger RNA (mRNA) expression of Th1- (IFN-γ, IL-12, TNF-α) and Th2-related cytokines (IL-10) mainly in groups PC-E and TE was observed, however, without statistically significant differences between co-infection and single infection with Eimeria. In conclusion, most of the measurable immune response could be attributed to Eimeria infection. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first report on co-infection experiments of T. gondii with Eimeria spp. in chickens.