Kinetics of anti-Fasciola IgG antibodies in serum and milk from dairy cows during lactation, and in serum from calves after feeding colostrum from infected dams.
ABSTRACT A study was carried out to compare anti-Fasciola hepatica IgG levels in blood serum and mammary secretions during the entire lactation period in dairy cows experimentally infected with different numbers of F. hepatica metacercariae. The kinetics of specific antibodies passively transferred to the offspring was also studied. The MM3-SERO ELISA, a specific and sensitive method of detecting antibodies against F. hepatica, was used to detect antibodies in milk and serum samples. The progress of infection was monitored by use of the MM3-COPRO ELISA, an immunoassay for detecting Fasciola antigens in faecal samples. The optical density of serum and milk from uninfected control cows remained low throughout the study. In the infected animals, a similar pattern of anti-F. hepatica IgG kinetics was observed in serum and milk throughout the entire observation period. This IgG response was characterized by the early appearance of high levels of specific antibodies in serum (detectable 1-4 weeks pi) and in milk (detectable at the beginning of lactation) and remained invariably high throughout the entire lactation period in cows infected with low-to-moderate infective doses (>or=50 metacercariae). However, in animals administered very low infective doses (<or=25 metacercariae) the levels of specific antibodies were variable, and would be difficult to interpret if only sporadic analyses were carried out. The MM3-SERO ELISA proved to be highly sensitive for use with milk samples, as it enabled detection of antibodies in cows infected with very low infective doses (<or=25 metacercariae) and therefore harbouring very few flukes (probably<10). Moreover, specific antibodies were able to be detected at any stage of lactation, in milk from cows infected with >or=50 metacercariae, even when samples were diluted al least 1:8. In newborn calves fed colostrum from infected dams, the levels of anti-Fasciola antibodies increased rapidly, then decreased sharply and were no longer detected in calves >12 weeks old. The results indicate that the detection of antibodies in milk samples may provide useful information about the status of F. hepatica infection in dairy herds if repeated analyses are carried out. Analysis of bulk samples may also be an inexpensive way of identifying herds infected with F. hepatica, provided highly sensitive tests are used.