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Cryptosporidiosis is a parasitic disease caused by coccidian protozoan of the genus Cryptosporidium. The infection manifests as a respiratory, urinary tract, and gastrointestinal disease, depending on how the organism gained access into the bird. The three main species that affect poultry include: C. baileyi, C. galli and C. meleagridis. They have been reported in a variety of different avian species, such as chickens, turkeys, quail, and finches. Interaction of C. baileyi with other pathogens present in the chicken's respiratory system often results in secondary infection with E. coli. If chickens become concurrently infected with infectious bronchitis virus (IBV) it can increase the severity of respiratory disease in chickens induced by C. baileyi.
Chicken become infected with Cryptosporidium through ingestion or inhalation of sporulated oocysts, shed in the feces of infected birds. Fecal-oral route and water-associated contamination are thought to be the most likely route of infection in backyard chickens. Oocysts are capable of surviving outside the chicken for long periods of time (often greater than 6 months duration) in cool, moist environments, and on fomites such as farm equipment, buildings, and human clothing.