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The Eimeria species, causative agents of the disease coccidiosis, are genetically complex protozoan parasites endemic in livestock. Drug resistance remains commonplace among the Eimeria, and alternatives to chemotherapeutic control are being sought. Vaccines based upon live formulations of parasites are effective, but production costs are high, stimulating demand for a recombinant subunit vaccine. The identity of antigens suitable for inclusion in such vaccines remains elusive. Selection of immunoprotective antigens of the Eimeria species as vaccine candidates based upon recognition by the host immune system has been unsuccessful, obscured by the considerable number of molecules that are immunogenic but not immunoprotective. This is a common problem which characterizes work with most eukaryotic parasites. The identification of a selective criterion to directly access genetic loci that encode immunoprotective antigens of Eimeria maxima using a mapping strategy based upon parasite genetics, immune selection and DNA fingerprinting promises to revolutionize the process of antigen discovery. Linkage analyses of DNA markers amplified from populations of recombinant parasites defined by an ability to escape parent-specific deleterious selection by strain-specific immunity and chemotherapy has revealed four discrete regions within the E. maxima genome linked to escape from a protective immune response. These regions now form the basis of detailed study to identify antigens as candidates for inclusion in future vaccination strategies.

Original publication




Journal article


Parasite Immunol

Publication Date





305 - 314


Animals, Antigens, Protozoan, Chickens, Coccidiosis, Eimeria, Protozoan Vaccines, Vaccines, Synthetic