Molecular prevalence and preponderance of Eimeria spp. among chickens in Tamil Nadu, India


Coccidosis is one of the most commonly prevalent and economically important parasitic diseases of poultry worldwide. Chicken coccidia are protozoan parasites of the genus Eimeria. This study aimed at analysing the molecular prevalence of seven species of Eimeria infecting chickens in Tamil Nadu, India. Tissue samples (caecum, rectum and upper and mid intestines) collected from chickens exhibiting symptoms of coccidiosis were used for DNA extraction, followed by amplification of the internal transcribed spacer (ITS) region of Eimeria genome with genus-specific primers and speciation in nested polymerase chain reaction (PCR) with species-specific primers. Of 43 tissue samples examined, 25 were positive in ITS PCR and all the seven species could be identified. However, the prevalence of each species varied. In broilers, Eimeria necatrix was present in all infected chickens with Eimeria brunetti, Eimeria tenella, Eimeria maxima and Eimeria acervulina present in more than 50% of infected chickens, while Eimeria praecox and Eimeria mitis were only present in 11% to 16%. Although only 7 samples were positive among layers, the prevalence was largely similar, but with a higher prevalence of E. praecox and E. mitis and a lower prevalence of E. tenella. Multiple infections were most common, with 2–6 Eimeria species infecting the same chickens. In order to estimate the preponderance of each infecting species of Eimeria, a random cloning technique was adopted. The genus-specific ITS PCR product was cloned in a TA vector and ten clones were randomly picked and used as template for amplification of all the seven genera of Eimeria. If the specific species of Eimeria is preponderant, then the frequency of the clones showing that species-specific PCR amplification would be higher. Using this method, the most preponderant species present in the rectum, mid and upper intestines of layers was assessed to be E. acervulina, E. brunetti and E. necatrix. E. acervulina was present in 60–90%, E. necatrix in 10–30% and E. brunetti in 10–20% of the clones screened, indicating that these species could be the most preponderant Eimeria species. Intervention strategies should aim at these species. This new method of estimating preponderance of infecting Eimeria species could be used to assess the relative importance of each species at the farm or region level instead of relying only on prevalence estimates.

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Fig. 1



Internal transcribed spacer


Polymerase chain reaction


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The authors thank Dr. Damer Blake, Chandra Subramaniam and Fiona Tomley of the Institute for Animal Health, Compton, UK for their help and suggestions. Part of the work was funded by the BBSRC, UK under the IndiaPA. The authors also thank the Tamil Nadu Veterinary and Animal Sciences University for all the facilities provided and the Avian Disease Laboratory, Namakkal for the samples.

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Correspondence to Gopal Dhinakar Raj.

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Aarthi, S., Dhinakar Raj, G., Raman, M. et al. Molecular prevalence and preponderance of Eimeria spp. among chickens in Tamil Nadu, India. Parasitol Res 107, 1013–1017 (2010).

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  • Internal Transcribe Spacer
  • Coccidiosis
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction Inhibitor
  • Eimeria Species
  • Oocyst Wall