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Vaccination as a control strategy against the coccidial parasites Eimeria, Toxoplasma and Neospora

  • E. A. INNES (a1) and A. N. VERMEULEN (a2)


The protozoan parasites Eimeria spp. Toxoplasma gondii and Neospora caninum are significant causes of disease in livestock worldwide and T. gondii is also an important human pathogen. Drugs have been used with varying success to help control aspects of these diseases and commercial vaccines are available for all three groups of parasites. However, there are issues with increasing development of resistance to many of the anti-coccidial drugs used to help control avian eimeriosis and public concerns about the use of drugs in food animals. In addition there are no drugs available that can act against the tissue cyst stage of either T. gondii or N. caninum and thus cure animals or people of infection. All three groups of parasites multiply within the cells of their host species and therefore cell mediated immune mechanisms are thought to be an important component of host protective immunity. Successful vaccination strategies for both Eimeria and Toxoplasma have relied on using a live vaccination approach using attenuated parasites which allows correct processing and presentation of antigen to the host immune system to stimulate appropriate cell mediated immune responses. However, live vaccines can have problems with safety, short shelf-life and large-scale production; therefore there is continued interest in devising new vaccines using defined recombinant antigens. The major challenges in devising novel vaccines are to select relevant antigens and then present them to the immune system in an appropriate manner to enable the induction of protective immune responses. With all three groups of parasites, vaccine preparations comprising antigens from the different life cycle stages may also be advantageous. In the case of Eimeria parasites there are also problems with strain-specific immunity therefore a cocktail of antigens from different parasite strains may be required. Improving our knowledge of the different parasite transmission routes, host-parasite relationships, disease pathogenesis and determining the various roles of the host immune response being at times host-protective, parasite protective and in causing immunopathology will help to tailor a vaccination strategy against a particular disease target. This paper discusses current vaccination strategies to help combat infections with Eimeria, Toxoplasma and Neospora and recent research looking towards developing new vaccine targets and approaches.


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