The purpose of this study was 2-fold: 1) to develop a deterministic model that describes the development of immunocompetence and the kinetics of immunoresponsiveness to a pathogenic challenge in chicks and 2) to use this model to illustrate the importance of factors in experimental design, such as type of variable measured, measurement timing, and challenge age. Difficulties in evaluating immunological variables hinder attempts to improve animal health through selection on immunological variables. In young chicks, evaluating immunological variables is additionally complicated by immune system development and maternal immunity. The evaluation of immunocompetence and immunoresponsiveness and the definition of appropriate challenge and measurement strategies may be enabled through a mathematical model that captures the key components of the immune system and its development. Therefore, a model was developed that describes the development of immunocompetence as well as the kinetics of immunoresponsiveness to a pathogenic extracellular bacterial challenge in an individual chick from 0 to 56 d of age. The model consisted of 4 components describing immunocompetence (maternal and baseline immunity) and immunoresponsiveness (acute phase and antibody response). Individual component equations generally fit published data adequately. Four scenarios that represented combinations of challenge age and measurement timing were simulated. In each scenario, the immunoresponsiveness to a particular challenge was compared for 3 different levels of baseline immunity, representing 3 broiler genotypes. It was illustrated that experimental design (type of immunoresponsiveness measured, measurement timing, and challenge age) can have an important effect on the ranking of genotypes, groups, or individuals and on the reliability of extrapolations based on this ranking. It is concluded that this model is a potentially useful tool in the definition of appropriate challenge and measurement strategies when evaluating immunocompetence and immunoresponsiveness. Further, it may be used as a generator of hypotheses on global immunological relationships to be tested experimentally.
- infectious-bronchitis virus
- escherichia-coli lipopolysaccharide
- phase protein response
- bactericidal activities
- divergent selection