Bovine Coccidiosis: Dynamics of infection in grazing cattle and the potential role of stress and immunity


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Virginia Tech


Eimerian parasites infect cattle worldwide. Information on the infection dynamics of these parasites is lacking in the central Appalachian region of the United States. Studies aimed at characterizing the seasonal dynamics of eimerian parasites in this region were carried out in order to assess the impact of these organisms in grazing systems. In these studies the prevalence of Eimeria spp. infection was highest in calves less than one year of age and subsequently decreased to stable levels in older animals. Although E. bovis was the most common species identified in calves, heifers and cows, mixed species infections dominated. Additional studies were carried out to investigate the effect of stress on Eimeria spp. infection in beef calves. Lower stress, two-stage, weaning methods had no effect on Eimeria spp. infection dynamics in beef calves. These findings must be interpreted in light of the fact that calves used in this study were not managed in a way typical of many calves in the U.S.A. The fact that they were only transported short distances, never commingled, or exposed to a livestock market may explain why a rise in post weaning FOC was not observed. A model of stress- induced coccidiosis was developed using dexamethasone and E. bovis challenge. In this model, an oral challenge of at least 500,000 sporulated E. bovis oocysts in addition to dexamethasone injection at 7 days post challenge increased subsequent FOC. Further investigation of the immune response to E. bovis challenge during times of stress indicates that stress-induced suppression of cell mediated immunity and E. bovis challenge are required to increase subsequent oocyst shedding. These findings may represent the mechanism associated with stress-induced outbreaks of coccidiosis reported to occur in beef cattle in the United States.



Eimeria, weaning, cattle, calves, stress, IFN-γ, flow cytometry, T-lymphocytes, cytokines