Protozoa – Symptoms, Treatment and Prevention
Protozoa are found everywhere, and their cysts (protective capsule) can be found even in the most hostile environments. They grow more rapidly in the summer, which is bad news for tropical countries like ours. (Interestingly, virtually all of us humans have protozoa living in or on our body at some point in time; in fact, many people are infected with one or more protozoan species throughout their life).
In chickens, the most common protozoan disease – and the most dangerous – is coccidiosis, which usually affects chicks and pullets aged 3 to 6 weeks old. Older chickens are immune from the disease. (Actually, all chickens also carry the protozoa in their bowels; however, only some of them will develop the disease).
Let us start the discussion with the life cycle of the coccidia. It begins with an unsporulated oocyst or non-infective egg (an egg that contains an early stage of coccidiosis that is not yet developed). The oocyst can lay dormant in the soil and does not become infectious for up to a year – unless it gets the chance to sit in wet and humid conditions (like near dirty feeders and waterers).
The oocysts are passed in the feces of infected birds into the environment. When ingested by the chicken thru contaminated feed or water, the chicken’s stomach acids break down the oocyst wall in about 24 hours, releasing the infective form of the coccidiosis (sporocyst). These sporocysts attack the cell lining in the small intestine, and undergo several developmental stages until they can asexually reproduce inside the gut and destroy its cells.
It takes only one oocyst to destroy several thousands cells in the game fowl’s gut throughout its life cycle, which is completed in about one to two weeks.
The good news is that chicks that go foraging with their mothers and are exposed to the disease would slowly build up immunity to it. When a chick ingests only a few oocysts, only a few thousand cells in its gut could be descuettroyed; the chick will not be affected and over time will develop immunity to the disease.
However, no matter what the age of a chicken, if it ingests a large number of oocysts that damage millions of cells in its guts, it would suffer so much pain that it would not be able to eat; this would lead to reduced nutrient and fluid absorption resulting in diarrhea and blood loss, the cause of its rapid weight loss. It could also result in bloody droppings and anemia, and even blood poisoning. The infection produces more oocysts that are passed out in the feces. The chicken would then look unkempt, with pale comb and ruffled feathers and a bad posture; weakness, listlessness and unthriftiness are also signs of the infection.
Symptoms of coccidiosis do not appear until a few days later, and you can get caught unaware. Treatment should always be done as soon as the first signs of the disease appear – even in just one chicken. The whole flock should be inspected and the infected ones should be quarantined to prevent the spread of the disease.
PYRIMETHAMINE HCl + SODIUM SULFAQUINOXALINE + MENADIONE (Vit. K3)