Choice of species

Antisera can be raised in a wide variety of vertebrate animals: mice, rats, guinea pigs, hamsters, rabbits, chickens, sheep, pigs, goats, donkeys and horses. The choice of animal for immunization tends to be determined by how much serum is needed, how much antigen is available and the extent of foreigness of the antigen to the immunizing animal. Sheep, goats, pigs, donkeys and horses yield larger quantities of antiserum but are expensive to maintain and are generally used only for the production of commercially available antisera. Rabbits are most commonly used in the laboratory setting when individual investigators need to generate larger volumes of a particular antiserum. Exsanguination is the recommended method for collection of large amounts of antiserum from an animal to be sacrificed but this should only be performed by individuals well versed in the correct technique and as approved by institutional and national guidelines. The production of limited quantities of antisera in the mouse can be overcome by the production of ascites fluid where high antibody titers, equivalent to those achieved in serum, can be obtained. When only tiny amounts of antigen are available, the use of mice is also a clear advantage. A further advantage is that most investigators use inbred mouse strains and the genetics of the immune response for most of the strains have been well documented. If a weak response to an antigen is obtained in a particular mouse strain, changing the strain may help overcome the problem. If the amount of antigen is not limiting, several animals should be used as, even in inbred animal strains, a single antigen preparation will produce differing responses. The most important rule in the choice of animals is that immunization should be done in animals that are furthest in evolutionary distance from the source of antigen.

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