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Brief introduction to Protozoan Diseases of Poultry

Brief introduction to Protozoan Diseases of Poultry

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Published by: karkikedar on Jun 05, 2008
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10/07/2012

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Brief introduction to Protozoan Diseases of PoultryDr.Kedar KarkiCoccidiosis
Coccidiosis is a disease of fowl caused by a microscopic animal or protozoa andis characterized by diarrhea, unthriftiness and variable levels of mortality. In spiteof much research to advance the control and treatment of this disease, it remainsthe most costly disease of the poultry industry.Coccidiosis is caused by microscopic animals called coccidia. There are manyspecies of coccidia that can infect fowl, domestic animals and humans. Eachspecies of coccidia is host specific and does not infect a wide variety of animals.After an outbreak of a specific species of coccidia, the flock will develop aresistance to the exposed coccidia species but remain resistant to other infectivespecies. This means that a flock may experience several outbreaks of coccidiosis, each being caused by a different species of coccidia. Chickens aresusceptible to any of nine coccidia species, turkeys are susceptible to sevenspecies and quail are susceptible to at least four different species of coccidia.Coccidiosis is transmitted by direct or indirect contact with droppings of infectedbirds. When a bird ingests coccidia, the organisms invade the lining of theintestine and produce tissue damage as the undergo reproduction. Within a weekafter infection, the coccidia shed immature descendants that are referred to asoocysts. The oocysts shed in the droppings are not capable of infecting another bird unless they pass through a maturation process (sporulation) in the litter. Thissporulation occurs within a one to three day period if the litter is warm and dampbut can take much longer if the conditions are cool and dry. After sporulation thecoccidia are infective if consumed by a new host bird.The number of infective coccidia consumed by the host is a primary factor as tothe severity of the resulting infection. An infection may be mild enough to gounnoticed while a large infective dose of coccidia may produce severe lesionsthat can cause death. Coccidia survive for long periods outside the bird's body.They are easily transmitted from one house to another on contaminated boots,clothing, free-flying birds, equipment, feed sacks, insects and rodents.Coccidiosis usually occurs in growing birds and young adults. It is seldom seen inbirds under three weeks or in mature birds. Signs of an outbreak include birdsthat are pale, droopy, tend to huddle, consume less feed and water, havediarrhea, and may become emaciated and dehydrated. Laying hens willexperience a reduction in rate of egg production.
 
Cecal coccidiosis may produce bloody droppings and anemia that is oftenfollowed by death. Intestinal coccidiosis is not as acute and is more chronic innature. It produces less mortality than the cecal form.Lesions of the infection depend on the species of coccidia causing the problem,its severity and stage of the disease. Cecal coccidiosis may produce a ballooningof the cecal pouches that is filled with free blood. A later stage is characterized bycecae that are filled with a material with a cheesy consistency and being tingedwith variable amounts of blood. Lesions of intestinal coccidiosis vary from arather mild enteritis to a severe necrotic or hemorrhagic type.Cecal coccidiosis may be confused with blackhead and salmonellosis due to their similar lesions. Intestinal coccidiosis may be confused with hemorrhagic anemiasyndrome and other enteric diseases. Definite diagnosis is made from themicroscopic examination of scrapings of the digestive tract and identification of the coccidia organisms. Since it is common for healthy birds to possess somecoccidia, consideration of flock history and lesions must be considered beforemaking diagnosis and treatment recommendations.It is difficult, if not impossible, to prevent coccidiosis by sanitation alone. It is bestprevented by addition of a drug (coccidiostat) to the feed that controls the growthof coccidia in the digestive tract. Many coccidiostats are available commercially.Coccidiostats should not be indiscriminately used and recommendations must befollowed precisely.A coccidiosis vaccine is also available commercially. The product is useful only incertain types of poultry operations and must be used as recommended. Seekexpert advice before using the vaccine.
Blackhead (Histomoniasis, Enterohepatitis)
Blackhead is an acute or chronic protozoan disease of fowl, primarily affectingthe cecae and liver. The disease is present wherever poultry are raised.Blackhead is one of the critical diseases of growing turkeys and game birds. Itmay cause stunted growth, poor feed utilization and death. It is of lesseeconomic importance in chickens since they are more resistant, but the incidencein chickens apparently is increasing.Blackhead is caused by a protozoan parasite called
Histomonas meleagridis
.The organism in passed in the fecal material of infected birds. In many instances,the organism is shed within the eggs of the cecal worm of chickens, turkeys andgame birds. Free-living blackhead organisms do not survive long in nature, butthose in cecal worm eggs may survive for years. Therefore, most blackhead
 
transmission is considered due to ingesting infected cecal worm eggs.Transmission may also occur by the earthworm.Chickens are frequently infected without showing signs of the disease. Thesechickens may shed enormous numbers of blackhead organisms, many of whichare protected by cecal worm eggs. Outbreaks in turkeys can often be traced todirect or indirect contact with ranges, houses or equipment previously used bychickens. Free-flying birds may also contribute to an infection.Most blackhead losses occur in young birds (six to sixteen weeks). Among thesymptoms are loss of appetite, increased thirst, droopiness, drowsiness,darkening of the facial regions and diarrhea. Morbidity and mortality are variable,but mortality seldom exceeds fifteen percent; however, it may approach one-hundred percent in uncontrolled turkey outbreaks. Losses are usually low inchickens.Lesions of uncomplicated blackhead are confined to the cecae and liver, thus thereason for the synonymous term, enterohepatitis. The cecae are ballooned andwalls may be thickened, necrotic and ulcerated. Caseous (cheesy) cores withinthe cecae may be blood tinged. Peritonitis may be present if ulcers haveperforated the ceca walls. Livers are swollen and display circular depressedareas of necrosis about one-half inch in diameter. Smaller lesions coalesce toform larger ones. Lesions are yellowish to yellow-green and extend deeply intothe underlying liver tissue. Healing lesions may resemble those seen in visceralleukosis.Blackhead diagnosis is made readily on the basis of the lesions. Atypical forms,particularly in chickens, must be differentiated from cecal coccidiosis andSalmonella infections in particular. Medications may interfere with atypicallesions. Laboratory tests may be required for positive diagnosis in such cases.Good management practices can do much to control the blackhead problem. Donot keep birds of different species on the same premises. Do not range turkeyson ground previously used by chickens unless several years have elapsed.Rotate ranges periodically if possible. Cecal worm control is necessary to reduceblackhead incidence. Wire or slatted floors reduce exposure.Good management is the only effective method of preventing this disease sincemany of the effective drugs used in past years are no longer availablecommercially. Drugs that reduce the presence of cecal worms, and thus reducethe infection rate, are available but do not have an effect on the Histomonasorganism. Refer to the cecal worm section for recommended control practices.
Hexamitiasis (Infectious Catarrhal Enteritis)

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