Effects of early nutrition and sanitary conditions on antibody levels in early and later life of broiler chickens

Hollemans, M.S.; Vries Reilingh, G. de; Vries, S. de; Parmentier, H.K.; Lammers, A.


Immune maturation of broiler chickens may be affected by management, such as early life feeding strategy (early versus delayed nutrition) or by low or high sanitary conditions (LSC versus HSC). We compared systemic maternal (MAb), natural (NAb), natural auto- (NAAb), and antigen specific antibody (SpAb) levels (IgM, IgY) between broilers (n = 48 per treatment) that received early (EN) or delayed nutrition for 72 h (DN) housed in either low (LSC) or high sanitary conditions (HSC) between 7 and 35 d of age. We found minimal interactions between feeding strategy and sanitary conditions. At 7 d of age, broilers receiving EN compared with DN, had elevated levels of IgM binding keyhole limpet hemocyanin (KLH), phosphoryl-conjugated ovalbumin (PC-OVA), and muramyl dipeptide (MDP), whereas effects of feeding strategy diminished at later ages. In LSC compared with HSC broilers, levels of NAb agglutinating RRBC and sheep red blood cells (SRBC) were already elevated from 14 d of age onwards. At 33 d of age, antibody levels (NAb, NAAb, anti-LPS, anti-MDP) were all elevated in LSC, compared with HSC broilers, for both IgM and IgY, but not IgM against KLH. Western blotting revealed different binding patterns of NAAb against chicken liver homogenate, which may indicate that the NAAb repertoire is affected by antigenic pressure. Our data suggest that antibody levels are affected for an important part by environmental conditions (feeding strategy and sanitary conditions), but minimally by their interaction. However, it remains to be further studied whether the enhanced levels of antibodies as initiated by EN and LSC contribute to enhanced resistance to infectious diseases.