Indexed on: 13 Aug '13Published on: 13 Aug '13Published in: Veterinary Parasitology
Cystoisospora suis is the most pathogenic species of coccidia in suckling piglets, affecting them predominantly within their first three weeks of life. The clinical signs of neonatal cystoisosporosis include watery diarrhea and wasting, leading to significant economic losses for the farmer. Since neonatal piglets have an immature immune system, colostral transfer of maternal factors such as immune cells or antibodies is essential for controlling infections at that age. However, the role of C. suis-specific antibodies transferred from the sow to the piglets and possible correlations between antibody levels in the piglets acquired from colostrum with the clinical outcome of disease are currently not understood. To address this issue, 12 non-infected piglets and 14 piglets experimentally infected with C. suis on the third day of life were examined during their first four weeks of life. IgG, IgA, and IgM titers in the blood serum specific for sporozoites and merozoites of C. suis were evaluated, along with oocyst excretion and fecal consistency. Additionally, the antibody content in the colostrum and milk of three mother sows was determined. A transfer of naturally acquired C. suis-specific antibodies from sows to piglets with the colostrum could be demonstrated. Maternal antibodies in piglets' blood sera did not persist for longer than 14-21 days except for IgG which was present in high titers until the end of the study. Within 2-3 weeks after birth the onset of endogenous antibody production was noticed. Titers in blood serum showed a correlation with the severity of diarrhea which was positive for IgG and IgM (possibly due to increased consumption or loss of these antibodies) and negative for IgA. C. suis-specific mucus antibodies isolated from infected and non-infected piglets (n=6/group) on the 28th day of life were present in both groups, showing significantly higher titers of IgA and IgM in infected piglets. Maternally transferred antibodies acquired by natural infections of sows as observed in this study did not provide protection against the clinical manifestation of disease. The level and effect of transferrable maternal factors necessary for protection still need to be elucidated. However, correlations between antibody titers and fecal consistency in the piglets indicate that C. suis-specific antibodies might be useful markers for the expectable clinical severity of cystoisosporosis.