Adapted from Brambell (1958).

Adapted from Brambell (1958).

milk are also important effectors of passive immune protection, and part of the protective capacity of milk is attributable to the nonimmunoglobulin fraction. Antibacterial substances such as lactic acid, interferon, lysozyme, lactoferrin and the complement components C3 and C4 have been demonstrated in both human and ruminant milk and have been shown to affect the establishment of pathogenic bacteria, either through inherent bactericidal activity or in conjunction with specific immune responses.

While antibodies in colostrum are the predominant immune effectors transferred to the ruminant neonate, cells and other soluble factors in milk play an important role in terms of passive protection. There are normally large numbers of viable cells in bovine milk, varying from 5 X 104 to 2 X 10ft cells ml-1, although substantially higher numbers may occur if the gland becomes infected or inflamed. After milk ingestion by the suckling ruminant neonate some of these cells are taken up intact across the duodenal mucosa and are transported via lacteal lymph and mesenteric lymph nodes, indicating the potential for cells of maternal origin to have functional relevance in passive protection of the neonate.

The efficacy of passive transfer of antibody via colostrum in ruminants in protecting the neonate from specific diseases has been well documented. Calves which do not receive colostrum usually succumb to disease at an early age, or if they do survive have restricted growth. Deliberate passive immunization against selected diseases has been highly effective and calves fed colostral antibodies from immunized cows have been demonstrated to be resistant to specific challenge with a range of selected pathogens.

Despite the beneficial effect of maternal antibody transfer, it is well documented that maternal anti body acquired postnatally via colostrum has a suppressive effect on the development of endogenous mucosal immune responses in the young animal and the endogenous production of serum IgA occurs earlier in calves deprived of colostrum.

See also: CD antigens; Immunoglobulin, evolution of; Mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue (MALT); Ovine immune system; Phylogeny of the immune response; Porcine immune system; Tolerance, peripheral.

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