Measurement of Glucocorticoid Metabolite Concentrations in Faeces of Domestic Livestock


Institute of Biochemistry, University of Veterinary Medicine,Veterinärplatz 1, A-1210 Vienna, Austria


After 14C-labelled cortisol infusion in ponies and pigs, faecal samples were collected. Extraction of 0.5 g faeces with 5 ml 80–90 % methanol yielded the highest radioactivity in the supernatant. Most of the metabolites were ether soluble. After high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC), the presence of immunoreactive metabolites was demonstrated by measuring each HPLC fraction using enzyme immunoassays for cortisol, corticosterone and 11-oxoaetiocholanolone. Only the assay for 11-oxoaetiocholanolone revealed peaks with co-eluting radioactivity. For biological validation of the test system, adrenocorticotrophic hormone (ACTH) and dexamethasone were injected intravenously successively in both species (n = 6). Cortisol concentration in blood and the 11-oxoaetiocholanolone immunoreactive substances in faeces were determined. In horse faeces, basal values of 2.3–35.2 nmol/kg were measured. After ACTH administration, an increase (more than 200 % above basal values) of these metabolites was seen about 1 day after ACTH administration. After dexamethasone injection the levels decreased, reaching minimum concentrations 2 days after administration. In pigs, an increase in these metabolites was measured in only three animals after ACTH; dexamethasone did not cause a decrease. The stability of the samples after defecation was tested by storing samples from cows, horses and pigs at room temperature. It was shown that there was a significant increase in the concentration of measured cortisol metabolites in bovine, equine and porcine faeces after storage for 1 h, 4 h and 24 h, respectively. In frozen samples this effect was diminished after thawing samples at 40°C; thawing the samples at 95°C prevented an increase in immunoreactive substances.