Experimental infection with Toxoplasma gondii in broiler chickens (Gallus domesticus): seroconversion, tissue cyst distribution, and prophylaxis

Toxoplasma gondii is a widespread zoonotic protozoan that infects most species of mammals and birds, including poultry. This study aimed to investigate the course of T. gondii infection and the efficacy of diclazuril and Artemisia annua in preventing infection in experimentally infected chickens. Seventy-five 1-month-old chickens, female and male, were randomly divided into five groups (n = 15 each) as follows: (1) uninfected untreated (negative control, NC); (2) infected with T. gondii genotype II/III isolated from a wild cat (group WC); (3) infected with T. gondii genotype II isolated from a domestic cat (group DC); (4) infected with T. gondii domestic cat strain and treated with the anticoccidial diclazuril (group DC-D); and (5) infected with T. gondii domestic cat strain and treated with the medicinal plant Artemisia annua (group DC-A). Clinical signs, body temperature, mortality rate, weight gain, feed conversion ratio, hematological parameters, and the presence of T. gondii–specific IgY antibodies were recorded in all groups. Five chickens per group were euthanized 28 days post-infection (p.i.) and their brains, hearts, and breast muscle tested for T. gondii by mouse bioassay and polymerase chain reaction (PCR). No clinical signs related to the experimental infection were observed throughout the study period. T. gondii–specific antibodies were detected by day 28 p.i., but not in all infected chickens. Overall, T. gondii DNA was detected (bioassay or tissue digests) in all infected and untreated chickens (10/10), while viable parasite (bioassay) was isolated from 7 out of 10 chickens. The parasite was most frequently identified in the brain (7/10). There were no differences in the T. gondii strains regarding clinical infection and the rate of T. gondii detection in tissues. However, higher antibody titers were obtained in chickens infected with T. gondii WC strain (1:192) comparing with T. gondii DC strain (1:48). A. annua reduced replication of the parasite in 3 out of 5 chickens, while diclazuril did not. In conclusion, broiler chickens were resistant to clinical toxoplasmosis, irrespective of the strain (domestic or wild cat strain). The herb A. annua presented prophylactic efficacy by reduced parasite replication. However, further studies are required aiming at the efficacy of diclazuril and A. annua for the prevention of T. gondii infection in chickens using quantitative analysis methods.



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