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Effects of Eimeria tenella infection on chicken caecal microbiome diversity, exploring variation associated with severity of pathology

Macdonald, S E; Nolan, M J; Harman, K; Boulton, K; Hume, D A; Tomley, F M; Stabler, R A; Blake, D P


S E Macdonald

M J Nolan

K Harman

K Boulton

D A Hume

F M Tomley

R A Stabler

D P Blake


Eimeria species cause the intestinal disease coccidiosis, most notably in poultry. While the direct impact of coccidiosis on animal health and welfare is clear, its influence on the enteric microbiota and by-stander effects on chicken health and production remains largely unknown, with the possible exception of Clostridium perfringens (necrotic enteritis). This study evaluated the composition and structure of the caecal microbiome in the presence or absence of a defined Eimeria tenella challenge infection in Cobb500 broiler chickens using 16S rRNA amplicon sequencing. The severity of clinical coccidiosis in individual chickens was quantified by caecal lesion scoring and microbial changes associated with different lesion scores identified. Following E. tenella infection the diversity of taxa within the caecal microbiome remained largely stable. However, infection induced significant changes in the abundance of some microbial taxa. The greatest changes were detected in birds displaying severe caecal pathology; taxa belonging to the order Enterobacteriaceae were increased, while taxa from Bacillales and Lactobacillales were decreased with the changes correlated with lesion severity. Significantly different profiles were also detected in infected birds which remained asymptomatic (lesion score 0), with taxa belonging to the genera Bacteroides decreased and Lactobacillus increased. Many differential taxa from the order Clostridiales were identified, with some increasing and others decreasing in abundance in Eimeria-infected animals. The results support the view that caecal microbiome dysbiosis associated with Eimeria infection contributes to disease pathology, and could be a target for intervention to mitigate the impact of coccidiosis on poultry productivity and welfare. This work highlights that E. tenella infection has a significant impact on the abundance of some caecal bacteria with notable differences detected between lesion score categories emphasising the importance of accounting for differences in caecal lesions when investigating the relationship between E. tenella and the poultry intestinal microbiome.


Macdonald, S. E., Nolan, M. J., Harman, K., Boulton, K., Hume, D. A., Tomley, F. M., …Blake, D. P. (2017). Effects of Eimeria tenella infection on chicken caecal microbiome diversity, exploring variation associated with severity of pathology. PLoS ONE, 12(9), e0184890.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Sep 1, 2017
Publication Date Sep 21, 2017
Deposit Date Oct 17, 2017
Publicly Available Date Oct 17, 2017
Journal PLoS One
Publisher Public Library of Science
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 12
Issue 9
Pages e0184890
Public URL


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