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In vivo Anti-Eimeria and in vitro Anthelmintic Activity of Ziziphus spina-christi Leaf Extracts.

Byline: Fares Alzahrani, Esam M. Al-Shaebi, Mohamed A. Dkhil and Saleh Al-Quraishy


Intestinal parasitic infection by Eimeria and helminthes in poultry are responsible for worldwide economic losses. This study was conducted to investigate the Anti-Eimeria and anthelmintic activity of Ziziphus Spina-christi leaves extract (ZLE). Experimental mice were divided into 5 groups. The first group is the non-infected control group. The second, third, fourth and fifth groups were orally infected with 1.2x103 E. papillata-sporulated oocysts. The third, fourth and fifth groups were orally inoculated with ZLE at a dose of 100, 200 and 300 mg/kg, respectively. The anthelmintic potential effect of ZLE was investigated on adult earthworm, Allolobophora caliginosa. ZLE could significantly decrease the shedding of oocysts to about 10.7x103, 28.3x103 and 23.8x103 oocysts/g faeces in the third, fourth and fifth group of mice respectively. Also, ZLE was able to improve the induced jejunal injury by E. papillata infection.

In addition, Treatment of infected mice with 100 and 300 mg ZLE/Kg could significantly elevate the number of goblet cells in the jejuna villi. Our in vivo study revealed that the time taken to induce paralysis and death of worms is dose dependant. The time consumed to induce paralysis and death decreased with the increased ZLE dose. Based on our results we can conclude that, Z. Spina-christi possesses anticoccidial as well as antihelmintic activity against E. papillata induced infection.

Key words

Ziziphus Spina-christi, Eimeria papillata, jejunum, anthelminthic activity.


Eimeriosis is an intestinal disease caused by various species of protozoan parasites within the genus Eimeria (Mehlhorn, 2014) and considered to be a disease of major economic importance affecting many species of farm and domestic animals. Gastrointestinal helminths also affect farming systems worldwide. Economic importance of eimeriosis and helminthiasis is due to production losses and high mortality rates of animals (Dkhil, 2013).

Most of the parasite control research programs are based on the use of anti-parasitic drugs are no longer considered sustainable because of an increased prevalence of parasite resistance, high costs and concerns regarding residues in the food and environment. Now, researchers used plant-based natural products against parasites because they have promising sources for novel anti-parasite candidate agents. These agents do not target only the parasites, but may also have organ-protective properties in the parasite-infected target hosts (Wunderlich et al., 2014). Recently, we used several plant extracts as pomegranate (Amer et al., 2015), neem (Dkhil et al., 2013), date palm (Metwaly et al., 2012) and garlic (Al-Quraishy et al., 2011) against E. papillata induced infection in mice. hese extracts were not only anti-Eimeria but also protect the jejunum from the parasite induced injury.

Zizyphus spina-christi Willd belongs to the family Rhamnaceae. In Arab countries, it has a common name "Nabka". In Bedouin, it is commonly used to treat ulcers and wounds. Nafisy (1993) reported that the plant leaves could be used as antiseptic, anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory agent. In addition, Z. spina-christi is also used to relief digestive disorders, obesity, urinary troubles and as a potent anti-microbial agent (Shahat et al., 2001; Nazif, 2002; Adzu et al., 2001). Furthermore, Abdel-Zahar et al. (2005) reported that Z. spina-christi leaves are used in folk medicine for the treatment of diabetes mellitus. The biological and pharmacological tests have shown antibacterial, antiviral activities of Z. spina-christi (Shahat et al., 2001). Furthermore, Kadir et al. (2008) used Z. spina-christi leaves ethanolic extract against cryptosporediosis induced in mice.

Our study was aimed at investigating the protective role of Z. spina-christi leaves extract on Eimeria papillata induced jejunal damage in the experimental animal, Mus musculus.


Preparation of the plant extract

Ziziphus spina-christi leaves were collected from Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The plant identification was confirmed by Dr. Pandalayil Department of Botany and Microbiology, College of Science, King Saud University. The plant leaves were dried then ground into powder. This powder was extracted with 70% methanol. In brief, the powder was incubated at 4 C for 24 h with mixing from time to time. Z. spina-christi leaves extract (ZLE) was filtered and then evaporated to dryness in vacuum evaporator (Heidolph, Germany). The residue was dissolved in distilled water and used in this experiment.


Forty male Swiss albino mice 9-11 weeks old and weighing 20-25 g, were obtained from the animal facilities of King Saud University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The mice were bred under specified pathogen-free conditions and fed a standard diet and water ad libitum. The experiments were approved by state authorities and followed Saudi Arabian rules for animal protection.

Infection of mice

Mice were orally inoculated with E. papillata sporulated oocysts. Every 24 h, fresh faecal pellets were collected from each mouse then weighed and the bedding was changed to eliminate reinfection. Faecal pellets were suspended in potassium dichromate and diluted in saturated sodium chloride for oocysts flotation. The number of oocysts was counted in a McMaster chamber according to Schito et al. (1996).

Experimental design

A total of 32 adult female Swiss albino mice were divided into 5 groups, each of 8 animals. The first group (non-infected) served as a vehicle control. This group gavaged only with 100 ul distilled water. The second, third, fourth and fifth groups were orally infected with 1.2x103 E. papillata-sporulated oocysts. Then, after 60 min, mice of the third, fourth and fifth groups were gavaged with 100 ul of 100, 200 and 300 mg ZLE/Kg, respectively, once daily for 5 days.

Number of goblet cells

Pieces of jejunum were freshly prepared, fixed in 10% neutral buffered formalin, and then embedded in paraffin. Sections were cut and then stained with hematoxylin and eosin for parasite detection. Also, other sections were stained with Alcian blue for the determination of the goblet cells. For each animal, the number of goblet cells in the jejunum was counted on at least ten villi. Results were expressed as the mean number of goblet cells per ten VCU (Allen et al., 1986).

Evaluation of anthelmintic activity of Z. spina-christi

The anthelmintic study was carried out using three doses (100, 200 and 300 mg/ml) of methanolic ZLE against the earthworm (Allolobophora caliginosa) by following the method of Ajaiyeoba et al. (2001). Five worms of nearly the same size per dose were used. Time for paralysis in minutes was noted when no movement of any sort could be observed, except when the worm was shaken vigorously, while the time of death in minutes was recorded after ascertaining the worms neither moved when shaken vigorously nor when they were dipped in warm water (50C) (Ajaiyeoba et al., 2001) and followed by fading away of their body colours. Albendazole suspension (10 mg/ml) was used as the reference drug (Murugamani et al., 2012; Dkhil, 2013). Distilled water was used as negative control. All the extracts and drug solution were freshly prepared before starting the experiment.

Statistical analysis

One-way ANOVA was carried out, and the statistical comparisons among the groups were performed with Duncan's t-test using a statistical package program (SPSS version 17.0). P [?] 0.05 was considered as significant for all statistical analysis in this study.


Figure 1 shows the effect of ZLE on the outcome of E. papillata infections. On day 5 p.i., the output differed between ZLE-treated and nontreated infected mice. The number of excreted oocysts in the infected mice reached approximately 51x10 3/g faeces (Fig. 1). However, on day 5 p.i., the ZLE treatment significantly lowered the shedding of oocysts to about 10.7x10 3, 28.3x10 3 and 23.8x10 3 oocysts/g faeces in the third, fourth and fifth group of mice, respectively (Fig. 1).

ZLE was able to improve the injured jejunum induced by E. papillata infection (Fig. 2). Also, the jejuna villi contained less number of parasitic stages after treatment (Fig. 2). Also, the examination of Alcian blue stained sections showed the decreased number of goblet cells in jejuna villi of mice infected with E. papillata sporulated oocysts (Fig. 3). Treatment of infected mice with 100 and 300 mg ZLE/Kg could significantly increase the number of goblet cells (Fig. 3).

Our experiment showed that the anthelminthic activity of ZLE to induce paralysis and that to induce death of worms is dose dependant. i.e. when we increased the ZLE dose, the time taken to induce paralysis and death decrease (Table I).

Table I.- Anthelminthic action of Z. spina-christi leaves extract.

Treatment###Time taken for###Time taken for

###paralysis (min)###death (min)

Vehicle control###-###-

Z. spina-christi (100###40.46###65.410


Z. spina-christi (200###22.24.4###37.812.8


Z. spina-christi (300###20.62.6###32.46.5


Albendazole (10###212.8###40.42.5



It was reported that toltrazuril, the commonly used anticoccidial drug has many toxic effects on the host (Wunderlich et al., 2014). In this study, we showed that Z. spina-christi exhibits anticoccidial activity, as is evidenced by a significant decrease in the output of E. papillata non-sporulated oocysts with the faeces of the infected mice. This decreased output of oocysts reflects that Z. spina-christi impairs the development of E. papillata in the host before oocysts are finally released in faeces of mice. The fact that Z. spina-christi possesses anticoccidial activity has also been reported in mice infected with Cryptosporedium spp. (Kadir et al., 2008). These anticoccidial properties caused by Z. spina-christi are also known to occur with most anticoccidial drugs (Wunderlich et al., 2014).

Z. spina-christi leaves extract could improve the histological damage done by E. papillata. Our previous studies demonstrated that, active compounds present in plant extracts could successfully exert such improvement in the jejunal histological architecture (Metwally et al., 2012; Dkhil et al., 2013; Amer et al., 2015).

Goblet cells are considered to be one of the major intestinal immunocompetent cells (Dkhil, 2013) releasing mucous that can function as a defensive barrier (Deplancke and Gaskins, 2001; Linh et al., 2009).

The jejunal villi contain the multipotential stem cells (Cheng, 1974). The decreased number of goblet cells may reflect damage to stem cell population by the parasite (Cheng, 1974). The alteration in goblet cells could affect the susceptibility of the Eimeria-infected host to limit the capacity of pathogen from increasing or penetrating the local epithelium (Yunus et al., 2005). ZLE was able to increase the number of jejunal goblet cells infected with E. papillata.

It was reported that the administration of intestinal anthelmintic drugs could induce severe effects to the host (Gulani et al., 2009). Recently, several medicinal plants have been tested for their anthelmintic activity (Mehlhorn et al., 2011; Yadav, 2012; Dkhil, 2013). Our experiment was performed on adult earthworms due to its physiological resemblance with the intestinal worm parasite infecting human (Awad, 2004). The curative effects of the extract may be due to the present active components present in the plant like alkaloids, flavonoids, saponins, proteins and lipids (Adzu et al., 2003).

Collectively, Z. spina-christi possesses anticoccidial as well as antihelmintic activity against E. papillata induced infection. Further studies are required to know the mechanism of ZLE action.


The authors would like to extend their sincere appreciations to the Deanship of Scientific Research at King Saud University for funding this Research group project No PRG-1436-02.


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Article Details
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Author:Alzahrani, Fares; Al-Shaebi, Esam M.; Dkhil, Mohamed A.; Al-Quraishy, Saleh
Publication:Pakistan Journal of Zoology
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:9PAKI
Date:Apr 30, 2016
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