Eimeria tenella, the causative agent of caecal coccidiosis, is a pathogenic gut dwelling protozoan which can cause severe morbidity and mortality in farmed chickens. Immune mapped protein-1 (IMP-1) has been identified as an anticoccidial vaccine candidate; in the present study allelic polymorphism was assessed across the IMP-1 coding sequence in E. tenella isolates from four countries and compared with the UK reference Houghton strain. Nucleotide diversity was low, limited to expansion/contraction of a CAG triplet repeat and five substitutions, three of which were non-synonymous. The EtIMP-1 coding sequence from a cloned Indian E. tenella isolate was expressed in E. coli and purified as a His-tagged thioredoxin fusion protein. An in-vivo vaccination and challenge trial was conducted to test the vaccine potential of recombinant EtIMP-1 (rEtIMP-1) and to compare post-vaccination immune responses of chickens to those stimulated by live oocyst infection. Following challenge, parasite replication measured using quantitative PCR was significantly reduced in chickens that had been vaccinated with rEtIMP-1 (rIC group; 67% reduction compared to UC or unimmunised controls; 79% reduction compared to rTC group or recombinant thioredoxin mock-immunised controls, p<0.05), or the birds vaccinated by infection with oocysts (OC group, 90% compared to unimmunised controls). Chickens vaccinated with oocysts (OC) had significantly higher levels of interferon gamma in their serum post-challenge, compared to rEtIMP-1 vaccinated birds (rIC). Conversely rEtIMP-1 (rIC) vaccinated birds had significantly higher antigen specific serum IgY responses, correlating with higher serum IL-4 (both p<0.05).
Eimeria tenella; EtIMP-1; Immunisation; Interleukins; Oocyst