Coccidiosis is a ubiquitous intestinal protozoan infection of poultry seriously impairing the growth and feed utilization of infected animals. Conventional disease control strategies rely heavily on chemoprophylaxis, which is a tremendous cost to the industry. Existing vaccines consist of live virulent or attenuated Eimeria strains with limited scope of protection against an ever-evolving and widespread pathogen. The continual emergence of drug-resistant strains of Eimeria, coupled with the increasing regulations and bans on the use of anticoccidial drugs in commercial poultry production, urges the need for novel approaches and alternative control strategies. Because of the complexity of the host immunity and the parasite life cycle, a comprehensive understanding of host-parasite interactions and protective immune mechanisms becomes necessary for successful prevention and control practices. Recent progress in functional genomics technology would facilitate the identification and characterization of host genes involved in immune responses as well as parasite genes and proteins that elicit protective host responses. This study reviews recent coccidiosis research and provides information on host immunity, immunomodulation, and the latest advances in live and recombinant vaccine development against coccidiosis. Such information will help magnify our understanding of host-parasite biology and mucosal immunology, and we hope it will lead to comprehensive designs of nutritional interventions and vaccination strategies for coccidiosis.
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Vol. 49 • No. 1