In vivo and in vitro efficacy of sainfoin (Onobrychis viciifolia) against Eimeria spp in lambs

Vet Parasitol. 2012 Aug 13;188(1-2):1-9. doi: 10.1016/j.vetpar.2012.03.014. Epub 2012 Mar 16.


The effect of sainfoin (Onobrychis viciifolia) against ovine coccidia was evaluated in vivo and in vitro. In 3 in vivo trials weaned lambs were allocated into two treatment groups receiving diets with either lucerne (Medicago sativa) or sainfoin. During the trials, which lasted for 7 (trial 1) or 8 weeks (trials 2 and 3), oocysts per gram of faeces (OPGs), faecal scores and weight gain were recorded. In two of the experiments (trials 1 and 3) a reduction in the mean oocyst excretion rates was observed, starting three to four weeks after sainfoin hay feeding. This reduction ranged between 21.3% (trial 1) and 61.7% (trial 3) compared to the control values. As a result, a decrease in the total number of oocysts excreted (expressed as the mean area under the curve of the OPG) was observed from week 4 to the end of the two trials, respectively (trial 1: 42.6% reduction, p=0.05; trial 3: 52.4% reduction, p=0.06). The results did not show any significant diet effect on lamb growth rates and faecal scores. In the in vitro experiments the effect of 39 sainfoin extracts were tested in an oocyst sporulation inhibition assay. The Eimeria oocysts sporulation inhibition throughout the experiments did not exceed 10.7%, showing that extracts of this forages do not have a significant inhibitory effect on Eimeria oocyst sporulation. This was an initial attempt to investigate a possible anticoccidial effect of sainfoin and further studies are needed in order to better understand its mode of action against Eimeria.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animal Feed
  • Animals
  • Coccidiosis / drug therapy
  • Coccidiosis / veterinary*
  • Eimeria / drug effects*
  • Fabaceae / chemistry*
  • Feces / parasitology
  • Female
  • Male
  • Parasite Egg Count
  • Plant Extracts / chemistry
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology*
  • Sheep
  • Sheep Diseases / drug therapy
  • Sheep Diseases / parasitology*


  • Plant Extracts