Avian coccidiosis is caused by Eimeria, a unicellular, apicomplexan protist which primarily infects intestinal epithelia resulting in nutrient malabsorption and reduced growth of commercial poultry. Vaccination of chickens with exosomes isolated from antigen presenting cells containing parasite antigens (Ags) represents a promising alternative strategy to control avian coccidiosis, but is restricted in its commercial application due to limitations on production scale-up for mass immunization programs.
Here, researchers from the University of Zaragoza report the biochemical and physiologic characteristics of exosomes derived from serum of Eimeria tenella-infected chickens and their feasibility for inducing protective immunity to experimental coccidiosis. Exosomes isolated from the serum of E. tenella-infected chickens contained a subset of protein Ags found in the intact parasite. Serum-derived exosomes containing these E. tenella Ags localized to the intestine and spleen following intramuscular injection into naïve chickens. In vitro ELISPOT assays revealed increased numbers of IL-2-, IL-4-, IL-6-, and IFN-γ-secreting cells in the intestine and spleen of exosome-administered chickens, compared with vehicle controls. Pre-immunization of chickens with serum exosomes from E. tenella-infected chickens increased both body weight gain and feed conversion efficiency, and reduced both fecal parasite shedding and gut lesion scores following parasite infection, compared with vehicle controls. Finally, immunization with CD80(+) serum exosomes stimulated greater numbers of cytokine-producing cells, and higher levels of protective immunity to E. tenella infection, compared with CD80(-) exosomes. These results suggest the possibility of producing an effective, parasite-free vaccine against avian coccidiosis under field conditions using serum-derived CD80(+) exosomes containing parasite Ags.
Immunofluorescence analysis of E. tenella Ag-binding cells
in CT and spleen of E. tenella-immunized chickens
CT (A, B) and spleen (C, D) tissue sections were stained with rabbit anti-E. tenella Ab revealing parasite Ag-binding cells (blue) in sections from chickens immunized with CD80+ serum exosomes (A, C) or CD80− serum exosomes (B, D). Note that only tissues from chickens immunized with CD80+ serum exosomes display Ag-binding cells (arrows) within germinal centers where the labelled cells form a dense network distributed within the entire germinal center.