Prevalence, intensity and pathology of ecto and haemoparasites infections in indigenous chickens in eastern province of kenya
Indigenous chickens constitute over 81% of poultry in Kenya and produce 71% of eggs and poultry meat. Ecto- and haemoparasites limit production of these birds in the rural areas. However, no previous studies have been carried out in Kenya to determine the prevalence and intensity of infection with these parasites and their effect on the host. The aim of this study was to determine the type and prevalences of ecto- and haemoparasites; and association, intensity and pathology caused by the ectoparasites affecting different ages and sex groups of free range indigenous chicken from two agro ecological zones: Lower highland 1 (LH1) in Embu District and Lower Midland 5 (LM5) in Mbeere District in Eastern Province, Kenya. A total of 144 indigenous chickens with matching for age, sex and agro ecological zones were purposively randomly selected and purchased from smallholder farms and transported alive in cages to the laboratories at the University of Nairobi, Kabete for examination. Thorough physical and postmortem examination was performed on the birds with emphasis on the cutaneous system. Three blood smears were prepared from each bird, processed and examined for haemoparasites. Body, head and leg skins were examined and identified parasites quantified. Skin tissues were collected for histopathology, processed and examined for lesions. Data was managed using Ms excel and analyzed with Genstat® Statistical package. One thirty eight chickens (95.8%) had one or more types of ectoparasites, namely; lice, mites, fleas and soft ticks. One thirty one birds had lice, 107 mites, 42 sticktight fleas and 8 had soft ticks. Of the 138 infested birds, 25 had single while 113 had mixed infestations. Lice were the most prevalent parasites. The study has documented Epidermoptes species, Laminosioptes cysticola and Megninia species for the first time in Africa as well as Lipeurus caponis and Goniodes gigas in Kenya. All adult birds were infected with ectoparasites followed by 97.7% grower and 89.6% chicks. Both male and female birds had the same prevalence (95.8%) of ectoparasites. Lower midland 5 had a slightly high prevalence of ectoparasites (98.6%) compared to LH1 (93.1%) (p> 0.05). Parasite intensity in chickens was significantly (p< 0.05) different among age groups and between agro-ecological zones, but not between sexes of birds. Of the 144 birds examined, 79.2% were infected with haemoparasites, with 62.3% single and 37.7% mixed haemoparasitic infestations. Plasmodium gallinaceum was the most prevalent haemoparasite (53.5%) followed by Leucocytozoon schoutedeni (52.1%) and Hemoproteus spp., (3.5%). Grower birds had a prevalence of 83.3% for haemoparasites compared to 81.3% of adults, and 72.9% of chicks (p> 0.05). Male birds had 83.3% prevalence, while female birds had 75.0% (p> 0.05). LH1 was found to have a slightly high prevalence of 81.9% compared to LM5, 76.4% (p> 0.05). Hemoproteus spp were isolated in chickens from LH1 and but not from LM5.