Cryptosporidium is a genus of apicomplexan parasites that inhabit the respiratory and gastrointestinal tracts of vertebrates. Research of these parasites is limited by a lack of model hosts. This study aimed to determine the extent to which infection at the embryo stage can enhance the propagation of Cryptosporidium oocysts in chickens. Nine-day-old chicken embryos and one-day-old chickens were experimentally infected with different doses of Cryptosporidium baileyi and Cryptosporidium parvum oocysts. Post hatching, all chickens had demonstrable infections, and the infection dose had no effect on the course of infection. Chickens infected as embryos shed oocysts immediately after hatching and shed significantly more oocysts over the course of the infection than chickens infected as one-day-olds. In chickens infected as embryos, C. baileyi was found in all organs except the brain whereas, C. parvum was only found in the gastrointestinal tract and trachea. In chickens infected as one-day-olds, C. baileyi was only found in the gastrointestinal tract and trachea. Chickens infected as embryos with C. baileyi died within 16 days of hatching. All other chickens cleared the infection. Infection of chickens as embryos could be used as an effective and simple model for the propagation of C. baileyi and C. parvum.
Keywords: Chicken embryo; Egg; In ovo; Inoculation; Model host; Shedding.
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