Coccidiosis

David A Stevens, Santa Clara Valley M├ędical Center, San Jose, California, USA

Coccidiosis is the generic term given to the disease caused by infection of domestic animals with Eimeria species. These are apicomplexan protozoa that parasitize mainly epithelial cells, principally those of the intestinal tract. They exhibit a high degree of host and site specificity and it is usual for a given species of animal to be host to several different Eimeria spp., each with its distinct location in the gut. Because of the self-limiting nature of the life cycle and the potential of the host to develop resistance to reinfection, coccidiosis is rarely a problem in nature but may be important in highly intensive systems of animal husbandry. In modern poultry production, where it is estimated to cause annual losses of $US1.5 billion, most flocks are prophylactically medicated. In humans, closely related organisms (Isospora spp.) cause a similar, but rarely significant, condition.

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