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Keywords:

  • horse;
  • foal;
  • predictors;
  • maternal;
  • immunoglobulin;
  • IgA

Summary

Reasons for performing the study

Prior to the start of endogenous production of immunoglobulins (Igs), absorption of maternal Igs is important to protect against pathogens in the early neonatal period. It is possible that mare- or foal-associated factors may influence neonatal IgA concentrations.

Objectives

The temporal relationships among serum and milk IgA concentrations in Thoroughbred mare–foal pairs were explored to determine if periparturient mare- and foal-associated factors contribute to the prediction of foal serum IgA concentrations.

Methods

Blood and milk samples as well as complete veterinary records, were collected for 84 Thoroughbred mare–foal pairs from one month before to 2 months after parturition. Samples were tested using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) for concentrations of IgA. Pairwise correlation coefficients were estimated (P<0.01) and simple linear regression used to investigate unconditional associations between mare IgA levels, mare and foal risk factors and foal serum IgA concentration at 12 h. Backwards, stepwise elimination of nonsignificant factors was used to create a final model.

Results

There were significant temporal relationships among mare serum IgA and among colostrum and milk IgA concentrations within mares (P<0.01). Mare serum IgA concentrations up to one month before parturition were associated with foal serum IgA concentrations at all time points and with colostrum and milk IgA concentrations. Mare serum IgA at -28 days and parity were associated with foal serum IgA concentration at 12 h (P<0.001).

Conclusions

Mare serum IgA concentrations up to 28 days before parturition, together with mare parity, are indicative of neonatal foal serum IgA concentrations.

Potential relevance

Mare serum and colostrum IgA concentrations may be useful peripartum predictors of neonatal mucosal immune status, enabling earlier intervention to prevent the consequences of mucosal infections.