Eimeria species: host/pathogen interactions and novel control strategies

Lead Research Organisation: The Pirbright Institute
Department Name: UNLISTED


Eimeria belong to the phylum Apicomplexa, which include many devastating parasites of man and livestock. Coccidiosis caused by the Eimeria species is the single most economically important protozoan disease of poultry throughout the world and new methods of control are required. The development of novel control strategies will be facilitated through a combination of fundamental and applied biology, supported through the development of appropriate tools. Recent progress in genomic and proteomic projects led by IAH scientists, supplemented by the development of reverse genetic techniques to manipulate the parasite genome, now provide a solid platform for these studies. Three key strands of study underpin this work package to define Eimeria components central to host interaction with relevance to future control strategies. Firstly, the endemic distribution of the Eimeria species and the longevity of the environmental phase of the lifecycle demand stringent biological control during reproduction for laboratory resources. The production of parasites and parasite derived materials will continue to support genomic, transcriptomic, proteomic and functional projects within IAH and in collaboration with other scientists. Output from these studies will be utilised in the identification and characterisation of key parasite molecules including surface antigens and proteins integral to parasite motility, adhesion, invasion and replication. Secondly, antigens identified will be rationally prioritised for inclusion in novel control strategies, informed by ongoing competitively funded molecular characterisation and genetic mapping projects. Finally, we will capitalise on the development of reverse genetic tools for Eimeria to inform ongoing studies and investigate applications as vaccine delivery vehicles in programmes protective against Eimeria and other pathogens of poultry.


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Description Structural biology 1 
Organisation Imperial College London
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We identified parasite molecules that promote the attachment of parasites to host cells, and showed in cell culture that one of these, termed EtMIC3, was deployed early in invasion and that antibodies against this protein could block the entry of parasites into cells. We also carried out vaccination experiments with recombinant-expressed EtMIC3 and showed that vaccinated chickens were significantly protected against colonisation with parasites following oral challenge.
Collaborator Contribution Our partners used NMR to determine the molecular structure of a single MAR domain from EtMIC3 and demonstrated that it bound directly to sialic acid.
Impact Two publications
Start Year 2009