Evidence for transfer of maternal antigen specific cellular immunity against Mycobacterium avium ssp. paratuberculosis via colostrum in a goat twin model

L. Robbers*, R. van de Mheen, L. Benedictus, R. Jorritsma, M. Nielen, H.J.C. Bijkerk, S.G. van der Grein, L. Ravesloot, A.P. Koets

*Corresponding author for this work

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Colostrum intake is one of the most important factors in neonatal health in ruminants, mainly because of its unique immunological properties. Both in practice as well as in research, the attention of lactogenic immunity is focused on the importance of colostral antibodies and less attention is given to the functional role of maternal cells in colostrum. Here we study the transfer of maternal leukocytes via colostrum and the functionality in goat kids. In experiment 1, twenty twin pairs of goat kids from dams previously immunized with an inactivated Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis (MAP) vaccine were fed maternal colostrum from their dam (kid 1) or pasteurized and frozen/thawed bovine colostrum (kid 2). The presence of cell mediated immune response (CMIR) against Mycobacterium avium antigens in the kids was assessed using intradermal skin testing with PPD-A tuberculin. Linear mixed effect models showed an increase in skin thickness in response to intradermal PPD-A injection in maternal colostrum fed kids compared to bovine colostrum fed kids. After intradermal PPD-A application, serum concentration of MAP specific antibodies increased in kids fed maternal colostrum, indicating antigen specific activation of the adaptive immune system. We did not detect a similar increase in antibodies in the kids fed bovine colostrum. In experiment 2, a more reductionistic approach was applied to specifically study the effects of the transfer of maternal colostral leukocytes on CMIR in goat kids. Similar to experiment 1, twin kids from MAP immunized dams were randomly divided over two groups. The experimental group received colostrum replacer supplemented with fluorescently labelled colostral cells of the dam and the control group received colostrum replacer only. No difference in skin response following intradermal PPD-A injection was observed between both groups of kids. Histologic examination of the skin at the intradermal injection site did not show fluorescently labelled cells. In conclusion, in our initial experiment we observed an antigen specific CMIR in goat kids fed fresh colostrum with colostral leukocytes from vaccinated dams. The lack of a DTH response in kids fed colostrum replacer supplemented with maternal colostrum derived leukocytes indicated that the complete colostral matrix is probably required for colostrum leukocytes to transfer across the intestinal epithelial barrier and modulate the neonatal immune response. In line with earlier studies, our results indicate that caprine maternal leukocytes present in colostrum can functionally contribute to the newborns’ early adaptive immune responses adding to the importance of colostrum feeding in ruminant neonates.

Original languageEnglish
Article number110402
JournalVeterinary Immunology and Immunopathology
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2022


  • Caprine
  • Cellular immunity
  • Colostrum
  • Delayed Type Hypersensitivity (DTH)
  • Lactogenic immunity
  • Maternal leukocyte transfer


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