Lesion scoring technique for Eimeria in chickens

When talking about the diagnosis of Eimeria in chickens, most people think of the oocyst count (OPG) and now PCR as the gold standard methods for obtaining the most accurate diagnosis. This is partly true, however it is very important to remember that the earliest diagnosis is still only possible with the classical lesion scoring technique implemented in 1970 by Johnson & Reid. Some factors can affect the lesion scoring method and should therefore be taken into consideration: proper selection of birds, careful necropsy procedure and accurate training for identification. (Read more)

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The oocyst count, commonly referred to as OPG (oocysts per gram of faeces), has been used for decades as the most common way to detect Eimeria oocysts on farms and it is still widely performed with the same purpose. However, we should point out its limitations:

• The presence of oocysts does not necessarily mean that a coccidiosis outbreak will soon occur on that farm;

• Affected birds with macroscopic lesions in the gut do not yet produce and shed oocysts.

In spite of this, the oocyst count has been shown to be very useful when monitoring the farm with weekly sampling, as the results can give us an indication of either the development of anticoccidial resistance or of the vaccine intake and onset of immunity after coccidiosis vaccination.

The PCR technique for Eimeria – recently introduced as a routine test in more and more diagnostic labs – also has advantages and limitations. The main advantage is the possibility of an accurate species identification of the Eimeria spp. contained in the sample.

In fact, field samples may contain debris and impurities and even if they are well preserved (refrigeration at 4-8ºC) and the typical morphology of each Eimeria species is easily recognizable, Eimeria spp. identification may be difficult.

Moreover, shape can be altered if the oocyst sporulates, thus an error range always has to be taken into account when species identification is done through microscopic appearance.

Whereas the main disadvantage of this technique lies in the fact that we do not know whether the Eimeria DNA that has been amplified comes from a live and infective parasite or from DNA debris contained in the sample.

This is why, the above having been said, lesion scoring for Eimeria in chickens today still remains the earliest method of diagnosis for coccidiosis outbreaks together with clinical signs. As there are some variables that can also influence this technique, in order to achieve the most reliable results, we should briefly analyse them:

1. Selection of the birds

Before necropsy, it is essential to know the Eimeria prevention strategy used on the farm:  vaccinations or anticoccidials.

It has been shown that the existence of gut lesions is not necessarily accompanied by clinical signs of coccidiosis in poultry (Williams et al., 2000). It has also been shown that immunized birds may display lesions and high oocyst counts, with no growth retardation or clinically overt disease.

As for the number of birds to be examined, generally, a total of 5 to10 birds from each house would be reasonable. Regarding the age, unless in the presence of a coccidiosis outbreak, in the case of vaccinated birds, the best age to check the safety of the vaccine is between 18 and 24 days of age. On the other hand, efficacy of the vaccine is better checked by performing necropsy between 28 and 35 days of age.

If anticoccidials are used, the best age to check the efficacy of the compound used in the feed is between 25 and 35 days of age. These birds should be of the average weight of the batch, and be alive at the time of sampling, not debilitated or fasted.

2. Necropsy procedure for Eimeria lesions detection

As previously mentioned, it is crucial that birds examined for gross lesions (at least 5 per batch), are alive and within the appropriate age range. If multiple groups are inspected, it is better to sacrifice one group and then another to reduce post-mortem artifacts.

The intestine is the first organ to decompose after death. Postmortem changes negatively influence the assessment of pathological changes due to Eimeria infestations in the gut. Make the sacrifice humanely with the least possible stress.

3. Training for Eimeria lesion identification

To complete the inspection looking for Eimeria lesions in a systematic way, consider the segments of the intestine that are shown in the slide share below: duodenum, upper and lower mid-intestine, rectum and caecum.

Do not expose the inner surface of the intestine until you have inspected the outer wall. It is important to record any change in thickness, colour or presence of spots, either petechiae or white spots.

Expose the inside of the digestive system. Observe and describe the content found:  amount and appearance. Inflammation of the intestine can sometimes be identified immediately after cutting the wall longitudinally, as it tends to fall back on itself.

This only happens when it belongs to a bird that has been recently sacrificed. List all the lesions observed, their location, colour, appearance, distribution, shape, etc. Whenever possible, take photos of the lesions.

Find some pictures and description of the typical lesions of the seven Eimeria spp. in the video above.

To sum up, in order to perform a careful coccidiosis diagnosis, we need to work with all three above-mentioned methods together and be well aware of the advantages and limitations of each.


Williams R.B., Catchpole J., 2000. A new protocol for a challenge test to assess the efficacy of live anticoccidial vaccines for chickens. Vaccine 18(13): 1178-85.

Johnson J., Reid W.M., 1970. Anticoccidial drugs: lesion scoring techniques in battery and floor-pen experiments with chickens. Exp. Parasitology 28(1): 30-6.


Coccidiosis in poultry does not only come from Eimeria tenella

Eimeria tenella is by far the most widely detected species on farms when routine lesion scoring is performed. However, it is well known that most of the time Eimeria infections are multiple. On the other hand, during last decade the egg sector has probably undergone the biggest changes, with an ever-increasing percentage of cage-free laying hens, especially in Europe.

Generally in layers and breeders we distinguish between caecal and intestinal coccidiosis. Caecal coccidiosis is due to Eimeria tenella  that is confined to the caecum and consists of the presence of hemorrhages on the outside or inside of the wall of the caecum.

This acute infection occurs most commonly in young chicks and is by far the most widely diagnosed in the field due to its typical lesions and location. For this reason, a common belief is that Eimeria tenella is the most prevalent all over the globe. In fact, macroscopic lesions are amongst the most pathognomonic with blood or typical molds in the caecum and common findings of bloody droppings in the litter.

A common belief is that Eimeria tenella is the most prevalent all over the globe.

However, most serious cases of intestinal coccidiosis are caused by Eimeria necatrix (and fewer, but still serious, by Eimeria brunetti). Both develop within deeper tissues of the small intestine and besides Eimeria tenella are major pathogens of poultry. Eimeria necatrix and Eimeria brunetti mainly affect birds of more than 8-9 weeks of age.

Recently, the evolution of the production systems with an ever-increasing percentage of laying hens that are floor-reared or reared in systems such as aviaries has shown a clear influence on the incidence of coccidiosis outbreaks, caused not only by Eimeria tenella, but also quite frequently by Eimeria necatrix.

Production systems with laying hens that are floor-reared has shown a clear influence on the incidence of coccidiosis outbreaks, caused by Eimeria necatrix.

The greatest evidence of this new situation is that coccidiosis vaccination in laying hens has increased considerably within the EU but also outside it.

Many egg producers have taken the decision to vaccinate all their flocks against coccidiosis, as the disease has started to appear more frequently in these semi-floor type rearing systems.

Many egg producers vaccinate against coccidiosis, as the disease has started to appear more frequently in semi-floor type rearing systems.

But why is that? Eimeria infections appear everywhere that birds have the opportunity of coming into contact with their faeces and pecking them. When most of the laying hens were reared in conventional cages, coccidiosis hardly occurred at all and a few cases appeared on those occasions when hens could peck the manure belt of the floor above.

So what happens nowadays? Hens reared on the floor or in aviary systems – where hens are reared totally or partially on the floor- clearly come into contact with their faeces.

However, it could also be the case with hens reared in furnished (enriched) cages as faeces can accumulate in some areas of the cage, such as the nests, and don’t fall on the manure belt below the cage. Every contact with faeces exposes the hen to a possible coccidiosis challenge as Eimeria oocysts are ubiquitous.

This is why nowadays we need to work on Eimeria prevention in all the three above- mentioned production systems: floor-reared, aviary systems and sometimes also with enriched cages.

Vaccination is well recognised as the most convenient Eimeria prevention strategy in laying hens, as one vaccination can protect birds for their entire lives, as long as certain conditions are met. And this is where the challenges lie:

• Choice of vaccine

• Day of vaccination & route of administration

• Management after Vaccination

In order to find out more about the challenges egg producers have to face when vaccinating for coccidiosis, have a look at the following article: Coccidiosis and welfare-friendly production systems for laying hens. A new connection.

A specific device for the administration of vaccines against coccidiosis in chickens offer even more

Some time ago, HIPRA took an important strategic decision: to develop and manufacture its own medical devices for the most correct administration of its vaccines. Coccidiosis in chickens is one of HIPRA’s strategic areas where it has recently launched a new and innovative coccidiosis vaccine, EVALON®. For this reason, the development of Hipraspray® was a natural consequence and is now a reality.

In terms of prevention against coccidiosis in chickens, Hipraspray® represents a turning point and a major leap forward in the use of vaccination devices.

With this system, HIPRA offers a high performance vaccination device specifically designed to ensure maximum efficacy of its EVALON® and Hipracox® products. In addition, HIPRA brings benefit to both the hatchery and the final producer.

HIPRA has enhanced its corporate strategy to overcome both current and future challenges. HIPRA is the first company to have digitised the animal health vaccination process, through Smart Vaccination.

In light of the desperate need for parameter optimisation in the livestock farming industry, HIPRA has emerged as the leader in the traceability of vaccination processes.

In this regard, HIPRA deems transparency from hatchery to the end producer to be vital, offering more information concerning the vaccination process against coccidiosis in chickens to all parties involved. This is ensured by software called HIPRAlink®, a platform for tracing, managing and analysing all the data coming from the vaccination process.

With HIPRAlink®, it is possible to trace information such as the doses administered, details of the vaccine batches, details regarding the operation and use of the Hipraspray® device, and to add more information that is of interest to the final producer about the batch of vaccinated chicks.

For a number of years, HIPRA has been strategically tackling the development and production of these devices, which are fully compatible with the characteristics of its products under development.

Biological products –and especially vaccines against coccidiosis in chickens- are extremely complicated to administer, which is why a fully coordinated and parallel approach to both vaccine and device production is vital in order to guarantee the best return on investment for the end customer.

This was achieved by introducing structural changes throughout the company and establishing new departments charged with meeting the needs of customers with highly technical and multidisciplinary requirements.

With a view to generating as much information as possible about the vaccination process and the products used, HIPRA opted to insert RFID chips into the vial labels. The coccidiosis in chickens line of vaccines –EVALON® and HIPRACOX®– was one of the first to carry these chips in the labels.

This has revolutionised the production process and the production lines in particular. This has been achieved thanks to the company’s flexibility, ability to rapidly adapt and the optimism with which it approaches new and exciting challenges.

Combining the worlds of biology, veterinary medicine, engineering and information technology is no easy task. In doing so, HIPRA has enhanced its corporate strategy to overcome both current and future challenges. HIPRA is the first company to have digitised the animal health vaccination process, through Smart Vaccination.

HIPRA’s future looks bright and is full of new challenges in such novel areas as traceability of livestock production processes, the Internet of Things (IoT), Big Data and decision-making, as well as artificial and predictive intelligence in diagnostics, while continuing to offer innovative and exclusive services to its customers.

Comparison between attenuated and non-attenuated Eimeria vaccines. What is the difference?

Eimeria vaccines for poultry are mainly composed of live oocysts. Concerns about the safety of coccidiosis vaccines have been raised by field users. This study compares the safety parameters of commercial non-attenuated and attenuated Eimeria vaccines with EVALON®, a live attenuated coccidiosis vaccine for breeders and layers.

Most of the Eimeria vaccines available for chickens consist of live parasites that need to undergo two and sometimes three entire life cycles inside the host gut in order to trigger the immune system and subsequently establish a full protective immunity.

On the market, there are live non-attenuated and attenuated vaccines. Live non-attenuated vaccines consist of parasites that still maintain their natural virulence.

(Read more: click below)

Anticoccidial Eimeria vaccines for poultry: where are we coming from and what is next? (Part II)

Live Eimeria vaccines have been widely used in poultry for more than 50 years now and we already described the differences among each other in a previous post (Part I). Since the 80s, attempts to develop next-generation recombinant coccidiosis vaccines have led to the identification of several candidate antigens (Blake et al. 2017). In spite of this, no recombinant Eimeria vaccine has been brought to market so far. So has anything new come to market since the 1950’s?

The reality is that nothing more than classic live Eimeria vaccines has been developed since the 1950s when the first coccidiosis vaccine reached the market. At first glance, if we think about all the other vaccines that have been brought to market in the meantime – both viral and bacterial -, and given that recombinant vaccines have been available for almost a decade now, it seems that research in the field of Eimeria vaccines has failed to keep pace.

Of course, this is not true and there has recently been one important step forward in the field of coccidiosis vaccines. In fact, HIPRA was the first company in the world to introduce the concept of immunomodulation in a live vaccine and more specifically an Eimeria live vaccine: EVALON®. So why use an immunomodulator for a live coccidiosis vaccine?

The reason is very simple: in order to survive, the Eimeria parasite fights back. In fact, it has evasion mechanisms that are able to play with immunity and, in this way, it is able to elicit a type of immunity that is not protective and effective (Jang 2011, Schmid 2014, Miska 2013).

Using immunomodulation, we use an adjuvant that make the vaccine work better, as this adjuvant triggers the type of immunity (cell-mediated) that is important for a protective immune response against Eimeria.

Specifically, the action of the adjuvant used in EVALON®’s HIPRAMUNE®T leads the immune response towards more effective immune mechanisms: the Th1 and Th2 responses need to be balanced and this is what the immunomodulator does. Results obtained from experimental trials indicate that HIPRAMUNE®T is able to increase the level of Th1 cytokines, as indicated by the results obtained for IL-2. Regarding IFN-gamma, statistically significantly higher levels were detected on different days both in the mucosa and Peyer’s patches. In contrast, levels of IL-4 and IL-10 were equal or lower when the group receiving EVALON® plus HIPRAMUNE®T was compared to the group receiving EVALON® alone. These results confirm the ability of HIPRAMUNE®T to stimulate a cellular immune response. It is therefore hypothesized that EVALON®, when administered together with HIPRAMUNE®T, is able to polarize the immune response towards a Th1 response.

Moreover, we have seen that HIPRAMUNE®T’s immunomodulator is also able to balance the Th1 and Th2 responses throughout almost the whole of the birds’ lives. In fact, in the duration of immunity trial we saw protection for up to 60 weeks after vaccination.

Coccidiosis vaccines using live Eimeria parasites are surely an effective alternative to anticoccidials. They are able to elicit a robust protective immunity after ingestion and re-cycling of the vaccine oocysts in the litter. However, very often this re-cycling can be hindered by several factors: dry conditions of the litter, low densities or production facilities (e.g. aviary systems, slats, etc…). It is exactly under these ever-increasing circumstances that the presence of an immunomodulator is of paramount importance as it can drive the development of the immunity towards a cell-mediated one even when the correct replication of the vaccine cannot take place completely.


Blake D.P., Pastor-Fernández I., Nolan M.J., Tomley F. (2017). Recombinant anticoccidial vaccines – a cup half full? Infection, Genetics and Evolution Nov; 55: 358-365.

Jang S.I., Lillehoj H.S., Lee S.H., Kim D.K., Pagès M., Hong Y.H., Min W., Lillehoj E.P. (2011). Distinct immunoregulatory properties of macrophage migration inhibitory factors encoded by Eimeria parasites and their chicken host. Vaccine Nov 8; 29 (48): 8998-9004.

Miska K.B., Kim S., Fetterer R.H., Dalloul R.A., Jenkins M.C. (2013). Macrophage migration inhibitory factor (MIF) of the protozoan parasite Eimeria influences the components of the immune system of its host, the chicken. Parasitol Res. May; 112(5): 1935-44.

Schmid M. , Heitlinger E. , Spork S. , Mollenkopf H.-J. , Lucius R. and Gupta N. (2014). Eimeria falciformis infection of the mouse caecum identifies opposing roles of IFNƳ-regulated host pathways for the parasite development. Mucosal Immunology Dec 7; 969–982.

Anticoccidial Eimeria vaccines for poultry: where are we coming from and what is next? (Part I)

Eimeria vaccines have been widely used in poultry since the early 1950’s and their advantages have been clearly shown. In spite of this, there are some differences between them -attenuation, composition, administration route-, but they all consist of live parasites that need to undergo two and sometimes three entire life cycles inside the host gut in order to trigger the immune system and subsequently establish full protective immunity.

There are both live non-attenuated and attenuated Eimeria vaccines on the market. Live non-attenuated vaccines consist of parasites that still maintain their natural virulence. Control of the development of adverse reactions (coccidiosis disease) is achieved by using low numbers of oocysts in vaccine preparations and in some cases even by the use of anticoccidials to control the excessive spread of vaccine strains. This strategy of “controlled exposure” allows protective immunity to develop before the contamination of litter with non-attenuated oocysts becomes severe.

Live attenuated Eimeria vaccines are specifically designed to generate an immune response whilst limiting the threat of possible adverse events. The most widely used attenuation system is the selection of strains by precocious development (Jeffers 1975), although attenuation via passages on embryonated eggs has also been used in E. tenella for some commercial live attenuated vaccines. There can therefore be different grades of attenuation due to the use of different attenuation processes.

As regards the composition of the Eimeria vaccine, this depends mainly on the category of birds for which the vaccine has been developed: broilers or breeders and layers. In spite of this, the main core of any vaccine should contain at least Eimeria acervulina, E. maxima and E. tenella, as these are species affecting all the birds. E. mitis and E. praecox have very fast biological life cycles within the host and this is closely related to their effect in the first weeks of production cycles. Thus, the impact of these Eimeria species is relevant for broilers but very limited for breeders and layers. In fact, the growth rate and weight gain within the first weeks of life in breeders and layers is quite irrelevant and even later on (from 3-4 weeks) the weight is monitored and the feed administered is restricted.

On the other hand, in the case of long life cycle birds such as breeders and layers, it is necessary to include E. necatrix and E. brunetti in the composition of Eimeria vaccines.

In addition, two species of Eimeria – in the past considered as separate species – are no longer included by the scientific community in the list of Eimeria species affecting Gallus gallus:

• Eimeria hagani – described only once by Levine 1938;

• E. mivati, which appeared to be a mixture of E. mitis and E. acervulina (M. W. Shirley et al. 1983, V. Vrba et al. 2011).

However, both species are still present in a commercial vaccine registered on the American Continent.

Finally, regarding administration methods, a number of different ones have been developed for live Eimeria vaccines. The first ones included:

Drinking water: the best equipment to be used are bell-type drinkers. Usually one drinker is required for 100-150 chicks. In some cases, even pipeline systems have been used, but they are not suitable. In fact, when pipeline nipple drinkers are used, the risk is always that the vaccinal oocysts, due to their weight, become trapped in some angles of the line or in the biofilm that usually forms all along the lines.

On-feed spray: it should be pointed out that temperatures on farms are high on day 0, thus the time from vaccination to ingestion of feed becomes crucial. If this time is too long, vaccine oocysts may die from desiccation before the chicks can ingest them;

Eye drops: this is an individual method that can be very accurate, but due to the need for skilled labour it has fallen out of use, although it is still used in a few countries.

More recently:

Oral Gel/ Rain Gel: another delivery method is the incorporation of vaccine in a coloured gel that is placed in chick trays at the hatchery or on feed trays in the poultry house immediately after placement. However, this method can lead to non-uniform distribution of the oocysts inside the gel and consequently uneven intake of the vaccine.

In-ovo injection of sporulated oocysts into 18-day-old embryonated eggs. In-ovo administration has several distinct advantages, including the increased accuracy and repeatability of vaccine delivery. However, for this route of administration, a specific in-ovo machine adapted to deliver oocysts into the amniotic cavity of embryos is needed.

Coarse spray administration of 1-day-old chicks is probably the most common method and consists of spraying the vaccine over the chicks’ trays either at the hatchery or at farm level. The oocysts are suspended in a coloured dye (like the light purple used in HIPRACOX® & EVALON®) that has the dual advantage of allowing hatcheries to evaluate visually the success of the procedure and stimulating the chicks to take up the vaccine by preening themselves and pecking each other. In addition, HIPRACOX® & EVALON®, together with the colouring agent, contain an aroma –vanillin- that is able to enhance pecking and preening even under low light conditions. The devices most frequently used for the application of Eimeria vaccines are hatchery spraying cabinets or in-line devices that are able to combine coarse spray droplets -for the correct ingestion of the vaccine- together with uniformity of distribution of the vaccine within the chicks’ box. Hipraspray® is the first device that has been specially developed for the administration of the Eimeria vaccines EVALON® and HIPRACOX®.


Jeffers T.K. (1975). Attenuation of Eimeria tenella through selection for precociousness. J Parasitol. Dec; 61(6):1083-90.

Levine P.P. 1938. Eimeria hagani n.sp. (Protozoa: Eimeriidae) a new coccidium of the chicken. Cornell Veterinarian, 28: 263—266.

Shirley M. W., Jeffers T. K., Long P. L. (1983). Studies to determine the taxonomic status of Eimeria mitis, Tyzzer 1929 and E. mivati, Edgar and Seibold 1964. Parasitology 87(2), 185-198.

Vrba V., Poplstein M., Pakandl M. (2011). The discovery of the two types of small subunit ribosomal RNA gene in Eimeria mitis contests the existence of E. mivati as an independent species. Veterinary Parasitology 183, 47-53.

Raised without antibiotics: How to control coccidiosis in broilers and reach this goal? (Part 2)

Nowadays there is an increasing demand for products that come from animals raised without antibiotics. The concerning thing about antibiotic resistance and the alarming situation with the superbug is that it increases the demand for these distinctive products. Problems such as coccidiosis in broilers and maintaining productive efficiency have to be taken into account.

In broiler production, coccidiosis can be controlled through the use of inonophores. Ionophores are antimicrobials and yet they are used in many countries with antibiotic reduction policies. The reason for this is that there are no public health concerns regarding this type of product. Despite this, it can (and it will) induce resistance in microbials, such as Eimeria, and will have an impact on animal health and production results as consequence.

The most significant use of antibiotics for broiler production is for the prevention of coccidiosis in poultry (ionophore coccidiostats are one type of antibiotic), and for the treatment or prevention of necrotic enteritis.

Coccidiosis control is important for the production of broilers raised without antibiotics, helping to prevent the common secondary clostridial disease, necrotic enteritis. One effective way of controlling coccidiosis without the use of antibiotics is vaccination, which is an advantage because of the lack of resistance so commonly found with the use of coccidiostats.

Nutritional management is imperative for the maintenance of gut health. There are more and more types of feed additives on the market, direct-fed microbials, prebiotics, essential oils, and enzymes are just a few of the products available. The idea of combining different feed additives to get maximum efficacy in improving gut health in order to promote feed efficiency and keep birds healthy is a popular one.

One of the pillars of poultry production is biosecurity; not only is nutrition a key factor, but aspects such as the prevention of the entry of pathogens are also essential in the control of pathologies in poultry production. Prevention, such as vaccination against coccidiosis in poultry and biosecurity, are two of the most important factors in the control of pathologies.

However, nutrition and biosecurity measures are not the only resources that help animal producers to rear animals without the use of coccidiostats and antibiotics. On the other hand, we are now living in a highly technological world where everybody collects data that are susceptible of being transformed into information.

Statistics and mainly data analysis is the science that gives us the answers in situations of uncertainty. Statistics is widely used in different fields: from car factories to animal production, companies take advantage of the usefulness of this tool. Hiprastats® -Hipra’s department of statistics- helps customers in different areas, for instance in assessing the risks affecting the results of coccidiosis vaccination.

As matter of fact, HIPRA®, as the reference in prevention for Animal Health, has dedicated its best efforts to the development of ORIGINS®, a pioneering comprehensive consultancy programme powered by Hiprastats® and designed to create plans for raising livestock animals efficiently and competitively, without antibiotics or coccidiostats.

ORIGINS® is based on the identification of the factors that are key for production without antibiotics and with the use of vaccines against coccidiosis in broilers. This allows the classification of those farms in a company with the highest statistical probability of success in producing animals without the use of antibiotics or coccidiostats. Achieving this objective can also improve the overall results of the company, as it will identify strengths and weaknesses.

To sum up, rearing animals without antibiotics and coccidiostats is within the reach of most companies thanks to the new tools currently available in the field of animal production. Nutrition, biosecurity and data analysis are the most important topics to take into account for the achievement of a more sustainable form of production without abuse of antibiotics or ionophore coccidiostats for the control of coccidiosis in broilers.

Data Management and Big Data: Something to deal with coccidiosis in poultry?

The world is connected and this connection generates millions and millions of data. We currently generate data every time we are online whether it’s by using our smartphones, GPS, social networks, when we buy things, when we go to work or when we communicate with each other, among other things.

It could be said that we leave tracks in the form of digital data due to almost every activity we carry out in our daily lives. It is predicted that by 2020, there will be 50 trillion devices connected to the Internet. So what about the poultry sector? The sector is also connected and it is becoming increasingly so. In industry, and particularly in the poultry farming industry, this digital transformation is also taking place.

For example, there are increasingly more devices being used in farms and hatcheries that have humidity sensors, sensors to regulate food, air quality control sensors, sensors for biosecurity, etc. Many of these devices are connected to the Internet and generate digital data on a daily basis. A clear example of this is with Hipraspray®, the vaccination device for COCCIDIOSIS AND RESPIRATORY DISEASES IN POULTRY which is connected to the Internet and provides 100% traceability through its HIPRAlink® software.

What do we get from this digital data and what value is there in BIG DATA Management? 

Does it make sense to opt for mass data management? Does it make sense to invest in big data and in the management of coccidiosis in poultry, for example? Are we capable of predicting, analysing and searching for epidemiological patterns in our hatcheries? The concept has had a low take-up in the poultry sector and only a few people manage their decision-making based on the analysis of big data. However, there is a growing trend to use such technology and in the future such technology will be applied to all business strategies, and this is especially true in the poultry industry when making correct or incorrect decisions could make a really significant difference to production. The 3 key aspects with big data, which also apply to the poultry industry, are:
1. High volume, real time data storage.

2. Thanks to the big data database, we can merge separate data and improve connectivity between different sources (for example, air quality sensors, production management programs, vaccine traceability, farm management software, etc.).
3. Big data software provides the ability to obtain and analyse data streams at high speed. It provides information in real time and helps decision-making become quick and effective (for example, when correlating air quality with data).

The topic is complex, but the answer is yes, if these 3 values are introduced and we use big data, we will be able to hold data that will provide us with answers during times of uncertainty at our farms precisely if we face a big problem of coccidiosis in poultry.

The importance of a smart vaccination in the control of Eimeria

The importance of information and data quality in any production process is no longer a matter for debate. Poultry production is no exception to this and we are increasingly seeing how the use of technology and relevant information is on the rise. The vaccination process and, more specifically, the control of Eimeria should form part of this new information model.In the 2016 ‘Power of Meat’ survey, one of the emerging trends was consumers’ increasing awareness regarding traceability and transparency in the production process of the meat they consume.

There is a general consensus that consumers in the future will be more sensitive towards where their meat comes from and treatments given to animals used for meat production. For example, the same survey from 2017 stated that “antibiotic-free” was the most highly valued specific characteristic for poultry meat consumers ahead of others such as “organic” or “natural”.

HIPRA is completely aligned with these trends with its Origins programme  for rearing antibiotic-free animals and, more specifically, with vaccinations against Eimeria so as to achieve antibiotic-free rearing in poultry production.
As mentioned above, another important trend must be considered: the use of information and technology in any production process. Again, there is an overwhelming consensus that this trend is not going to slow down and that the adoption of new technologies is a key factor in terms of efficiency and productivity. Therefore, with a growing population and the resultant increased demand for protein in the coming years, concepts like efficiency and productivity should not be dismissed.
HIPRA is a strong advocator of the use of technology and believes that the vaccination process should be approached by taking into account all such trends. Our answer to vaccination in terms of traceability, transparency and efficiency is called Smart Vaccination.
With Smart Vaccination, HIPRA offers a new concept in its portfolio to ensure precision and efficacy during the vaccination process, whilst at the same time providing relevant information to make decision-making easier and to increase reliability.
Information such as the time of the vaccination, who administered it, which device was used and the specific details of all vaccine vials used are just one click away with HIPRAlink.
Furthermore, all this information can be easily shared with all stakeholders involved in the production process.

Vaccines are not dosed in the same way as antibiotics. This concept is even more relevant for vaccines against coccidiosis in poultry

A vaccine dose does not depend on body weight: the mechanism of action of vaccines is different to that of antibiotics and, as a result, the dose does not depend on the body weight of the target animal. When considering vaccines against coccidiosis in poultry, the dose is made up of a suspension of sporulated oocysts of different species of Eimeria.

In this suspension, the oocysts are not evenly distributed unless it is mixed thoroughly. If, in addition to this, the dose is reduced, the chance that the chicks will receive all the oocysts of every species decreases exponentially.
A vaccine does not have to be distributed throughout the body and the vaccine components (antigen and adjuvant) do not act directly on the pathogen. In general, the activity of vaccines starts with a rapid and local innate response depending on the route of administration.

Usually vaccines against coccidiosis in poultry are administered orally, thus the first innate immune response takes place in the gut. As a result of this first phase, antigen-presenting cells are activated (dendritic cells and/or macrophages) that are responsible for processing the antigen and carrying it to Peyer patches where they activate specific T lymphocytes, thereby starting the acquired immune response. As Eimeria is an intracellular parasite, the acquired immunity needed is of the cellular type. In this second phase, effector T cells are generated that produce cytokines ensuring a concentration in the tissues that is independent of the age/weight of the animal for the same dose of vaccine.
Does the same thing happen with human vaccines?
In human medicine, the vaccines that are used in children (paediatric vaccines) and in adults are the same and are used in the same dose. It would not occur to anyone to reduce a vaccine dose for children because of the risk of inadequate protection that this would entail. There are examples of toxoids (tetanus), inactivated vaccines (rabies) and live vaccines (varicella) where the dose is the same for children as for adults.
How is a vaccine dose determined?
The dose that is indicated in the leaflet for each vaccine is the one that has been shown to be effective during the different research phases in the target animal species and with the minimum age that can be vaccinated. On the basis of these studies, the health authorities in each country recommend the specified dose for each product. For this reason, the dose should be administered irrespective of the age of the animal.
There are some older products that have different doses for different age groups, but this would not be allowed nowadays.
What harm can be done by a dose that is lower than the recommended one?
Administration of a vaccine dose that is lower than the recommended one can result in a lower immune response, compromising the protection of the individual against the pathogen. Specifically, with vaccines against coccidiosis in poultry, if a full dose is not administered, there is a very strong possibility that there will be an uneven administration of both oocysts and Eimeria species amongst the vaccinated animals with a consequent lack of onset of immunity in some of the chicks.