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Ovine coccidiosis: heavy infection in young lambs increases resistance without causing disease
  1. MW Gregory and
  2. J Catchpole
  1. Parasitology Department, Central Veterinary Laboratory, Weybridge, Surrey.


Seven groups of twin lambs, kept with their dams on pasture, were given single oral inoculations of 10,000 oocysts of Eimeria ovinoidalis and 10,000 E crandallis at one, two, four, seven, 14, 21 or 28 days after birth, respectively. All were then challenged with 100,000 of each species at 42 days of age. An eighth group was challenged without having received the earlier 'immunising' inoculum, and a ninth group was not inoculated at all. Bodyweights, faecal consistency, oocyst output, and serum coccidial antibody levels were monitored up to 12 weeks of age. No clinical response was detected to inoculation up to four days of age. Loosening of faeces and a slight setback in weight-gain occurred in lambs inoculated seven, 14 and 21 days after birth; inoculation 28 days after birth caused severe diarrhoea and weight loss. Challenge at 42 days caused severe coccidiosis with 50 per cent mortality in the 'unimmunised' group. In those that had received 'immunising' inoculations, the challenge at 42 days caused some diarrhoea and some weight loss, but much less than in the 'unimmunised' lambs. The later the 'immunisation', the less severe was the disease attributable to the challenge at 42 days. Serum antibody levels correlated fairly closely with resistance to the disease. It was concluded that very young lambs were resistant to the pathogenic effects of some coccidia, but were able to respond to them immunologically.

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