A cDNA library was constructed with Eimeria necatrix merozoite mRNA and immunologically screened by chicken sera against this parasite. One of the positive clones containing an insert of 879 nucleotides, pNP19, showed similarity to part of a published gene expressed in E. tenella merozoite by the homology search system. The inserted DNA was subcloned into baculovirus, and a 35-kD protein was expressed, purified, and used for the antigen in enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). Antibodies from the chickens vaccinated with the E. necatrix attenuated strain, Nn-P125, were detected from 14 days after vaccination by ELISA. The mean absorbance increased rapidly to a peak around 21 days after vaccination; thereafter, it began to decline. Even though some of the vaccinated chickens showed very low levels of antibody response to the recombinant protein 56 days after vaccination, they were protected against challenge with virulent strain of E. necatrix. The mean absorbances in sera from both vaccinated and nonvaccinated chickens highly increased 14 days after challenge. On the other hand, the antibody was not detected in ELISA when chickens were exposed to other Eimeria species such as E. tenella, E. acervulina, and E. maxima. These results demonstrate that this recombinant protein is suitable for detecting the specific antibody in chickens infected with both attenuated and virulent strains of E. necatrix.
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Vol. 47 • No. 2