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Isospora suis: an experimental model for mammalian intestinal coccidiosis

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Piglets experimentally infected with 10,000 oocysts of Isospora suis in three identical trials (n=50) were examined clinically and coproscopically from 5 to 11 days post-infection (d.p.i.), weighed in weekly intervals until the fourth week of life and compared to age-matched asymptomatic controls (n=17). Furthermore, 17 infected piglets were histologically examined on days 5–14 p.i. Infected animals had a significantly lower weight gain than the controls and showed diarrhoea throughout, with maximum prevalence and intensity on 6 d.p.i. Half of the animals had diarrhoea for only 2 days or less. The number of diarrhoea days was negatively correlated with weight gain. Oocyst excretion started on 5 d.p.i. with peak prevalences and declined afterwards; a smaller peak was seen on 10 d.p.i. All animals excreted parasites at least once, and most of them excreted for 5–7 days. Oocyst excretion intensity paralleled the prevalence and ranged from 220 to 251,501 oocysts per gram of faeces (opg). Most samples contained 4×103 to 4×104 opg. The opg values were negatively correlated with faecal scores (samples with diarrhoea contained less oocysts) of the same day and the previous day. Histologically, necrosis followed by atrophy of the villi was most pronounced in the early stage of infection throughout the jejunum and ileum but declined thereafter. On 14 d.p.i., villous atrophy was still noticeable in the jejunum. Histology is difficult to quantify and requires large animal numbers, although the effects are visible for some time. Weight gain and faecal score can be affected by other factors than parasite infection. From the compiled data, we conclude that the established model is suitable to study piglet isosporosis with oocyst excretion being the most reliable parameter, although individual variations are considerable. A negative correlation between excretion and diarrhoea may be responsible for the difficulties in the detection of the parasite in field samples.

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The authors are grateful to Drs. V. Kalthoff and S. Wüstenberg for provision of data.

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Correspondence to A. Joachim.

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Mundt, HC., Joachim, A., Becka, M. et al. Isospora suis: an experimental model for mammalian intestinal coccidiosis. Parasitol Res 98, 167–175 (2006).

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