Eimeria is one of the most important parasite species in the chicken industry, costing the industry over $800 million annually. Eimeria species are a major cause of poultry coccidiosis. Prevention, diagnosis and parasite-host interactions are research priorities.

Gene expression dynamics of Eimeria spp. oocysts attenuated by low energy electron irradiation (LEEI)

Eimeria spp. importance in poultry health is well known. It is also known that, Eimeria spp. control is difficult. Their oocysts are remarkable resistant and ubiquitous. Hygiene measures, therefore, cannot solely eliminate infection risks. For this reason, control of Eimeria spp. mostly relies on the use of anticoccidial drugs and vaccination. However, intensive use of anticoccidial drugs can result in drug-resistant strains. A situation that has been increasingly confronted by veterinarians through the years.

Low energy electron irradiation (LEEI) has been proven a suitable technique for effective attenuation of different pathogens. LEEI attenuation is capable of inactivate pathogens while keeping their antigenic capability. Ahmed et al. (2019) successfully attenuated E. tenella oocysts with LEEI. In vitro reproduction inhibition assays and in vivo challenge with LEEI treated E. tenella oocysts were performed during this study. The results showed potential for LEEI as a suitable technology for vaccine development.

The aims of this study are to 1) identify genes are involved in LEEI attenuation of oocysts and their possible role during parasite infection. 2) apply LEEI in field isolates and other Eimeria species. 3) investigate gene expression dynamics in LEEI treated field isolates.

The results of this project could bring insights into pivotal genes involved in Eimeria infection. This can help in the development of new strains using novel genetic modification technologies. Additionally it could also help to identify novel targets for therapy development.

(Dr. Renteria-Solis)

Dual gene expression dynamics of co-infection of Eimeria tenella and Toxoplasma gondii in domestic fowl

The main goal of this project is the elucidation of gene expression dynamics in the host during co and single infections with E. tenella and T. gondii. Toxoplasma gondii infects all warm-blood animals, including humans and chickens. In humans and other mammals, Toxoplasmosis can represent a serious health issue. It has been reported that, in some cases, T. gondii can evade immune response of its host. In chickens, however, clinical toxoplasmosis is quite rare. Despite this, T. gondii serological prevalence in Europe can rise up to 100% in organic chickens (Dubey 2009). Despite this, the risk of T. gondii infection for humans through consumption of infected chicken meat is considered low in industrialized countries (Dubey 2009).

Given the widespread of both Eimeria and T. gondii, co-infections most likely occur. We aim to investigate the dynamics in the host and parasites during co-infection. For this, we plan to analyse the transcriptome of both parasites and host using Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) technologies. The results from this project could help to identify genes involved in immunity and parasite virulence. They could also help to determine if T. gondii plays a role in Eimeria infection. Lastly, the outcome of this project could help elucidate parasite-host interactions of T. gondii in chickens.

(Dr. Renteria-Solis)

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