Seasonal variation of antibody levels among pigeon fanciers


Dr Gavin Boyd, Centre for Respiratory Investigation, Royal Infirmary, Glasgow G4 OSF.


IgG antibody against avian antigens was measured by quantitative radioimmunoassay in serum samples obtained regularly from twenty pigeon fanciers over a 1-year period. A seasonal variation was seen in nine antibody-positive subjects; eight of whom had symptoms of pigeon breeder's disease (PBD), and a clear peak of antibody production occurred during late summer, corresponding with the period of maximum avian contact in the sporting season. All subjects with insignificant specific IgG levels were asymptomatic and displayed minimal changes throughout the year despite a similar exposure pattern to antigen for all individuals. Raised total IgG was a feature of six symptomatic subjects, two of whom had raised total IgA. Three of these six subjects had maximum hypergamma-globulinaemia coinciding with peak specific-antibody levels, but in general the total imrnunoglobulin levels tended to remain high throughout the year with only marginal fluctuations. The total immunoglobulin levels in the other individuals were within normal limits and displayed no remarkable changes during the year. The subjects with pigeon breeder's disease had a more active immune responsiveness to avian contact, and the association of the highest levels with periods of maximal contact with antigen may have an important bearing on the dynamic nature of this condition.