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Assessing immune competence in pigs by immunization with tetanus toxoid

  • U. Gimsa (a1), A. Tuchscherer (a2), J. Gimsa (a3) and M. Tuchscherer (a1)

Immune competence can be tested by challenging organisms with a set of infectious agents. However, disease control requirements impose restrictions on the infliction of infections upon domestic pigs. Alternatively, vaccinations induce detectable immune responses that reflect immune competence. Here, we tested this approach with tetanus toxoid (TT) in young domestic pigs. To optimize the vaccination protocol, we immunized the pigs with a commercial TT vaccine at the age of 21 or 35 days. Booster immunizations were performed either 14 or 21 days later. TT-specific antibodies in plasma as well as lymphoproliferative responses were determined both 7 and 14 days after booster immunization using ELISA and lymphocyte transformation tests, respectively. In addition, general IgG and IgM plasma concentrations and mitogen-induced proliferation were measured. The highest TT-specific antibody responses were detected when blood samples were collected 1 week after a booster immunization conducted 21 days after primary immunization. The pigs’ age at primary immunization did not have a significant influence on TT-specific antibody responses. Similarly, the TT-specific proliferative responses were highest when blood samples were collected 1 week after booster immunization, while age and time of primary and booster immunization were irrelevant in our setup. While general IgG and IgM plasma levels were highly age dependent, there were no significant age effects for TT-specific immune responses. In addition, mitogen-induced proliferation was independent of immunization as well as blood sampling protocols. In summary, our model of TT vaccination provides an interesting approach for the assessment of immune competence in young pigs. The detected vaccination effects were not biased by age, even though our data were acquired from immune systems that were under development during our tests.

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