The nematophagous fungus Pochonia chlamydosporia can degrade ascarid (e.g. Ascaridia galli) eggs in agar and soil in vitro. However, it has not been investigated how this translates to reduced infection levels in naturally exposed chickens. We thus tested the infectivity of soil artificially contaminated with A. galli (and a few Heterakis gallinarum) eggs and treated with P. chlamydosporia. Sterilised and non-sterilised soils were used to examine any influence of natural soil biota. Unembryonated eggs were mixed with sterilised (S)/non-sterilised (N) soil, either treated with the fungus (F) or left as untreated controls (C) and incubated (22 °C, 35 days) to allow eggs to embryonate and fungus to grow. Egg number in soil was estimated on days 0 and 35 post-incubation. Hens were exposed to the soil (SC/SF/NC/NF) four times over 12 days by mixing soil into the feed. On day 42 post-first-exposure (p.f.e.), the hens were euthanized and parasites were recovered. Serum A. galli IgY level and ascarid eggs per gram of faeces (EPG) were examined on days -1 and 36 (IgY) or 40 p.f.e. (EPG). Egg recovery in SF soil was substantially lower than in SC soil, but recovery was not significantly different between NF and NC soils. SF hens had a mean worm count of 76 whereas the other groups had means of 355-453. Early mature/mature A. galli were recovered from SF hens whereas hens in the other groups harboured mainly immature A. galli. Heterakis gallinarum counts were low overall, especially in SF. The SF post-exposure IgY response was significantly lower while EPG was significantly higher compared to the other groups. Pochonia chlamydosporia was very effective in reducing ascarid egg numbers in sterilised soil and thus worm burdens in the exposed hens. However, reduced exposure of hens shifted A. galli populations toward a higher proportion of mature worms and resulted in a higher faecal egg excretion within the study period. This highlights a fundamental problem in ascarid control: if not all eggs in the farm environment are inactivated, the resulting low level infections may result in higher contamination levels with associated negative long-term consequences.
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- Ascaridia galli
- Biological control
- Heterakis gallinarum