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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: An immunologist's perspective on nutrition, immunity and infectious diseases: Introduction and overview)

item Kogut, Michael - Mike
item Klasing, K

Submitted to: Journal of Applied Poultry Research
Publication Type: Peer reviewed journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/18/2008
Publication Date: 2/1/2009
Publication URL:
Citation: Kogut, M.H., Klasing, K. 2009. An immunologist's perspective on nutrition, immunity and infectious diseases: Introduction and overview. Journal of Applied Poultry Research. 18:103-110.

Interpretive Summary: There are many ingredients of chicken feed that can potentially help the bird’s immune system fight off infectious germs. However, there have been very few scientific experiments conducted to prove this idea. This paper suggests ways that scientists who study chicken feeds, chicken immunity, and infectious germs of chickens can work together to do experiments that will show how chicken feed can make chickens healthier. This paper will be beneficial to chicken feed makers, chicken farmers, and nutritionists.

Technical Abstract: The immune system is a multifaceted arrangement of membranes (skin, epithelial, mucus), cells, and molecules whose function is to eradicate invading pathogens or cancer cells from a host. Working together, the various components of the immune system perform a balancing act of being lethal enough to kill pathogens or cancer cells, yet specific so as not cause extensive damage to “self” tissues of the host. A functional immune system is a requirement of a “healthy” life in modern animal production. Yet, infectious diseases still represent a serious strain on the economics (reduced production, cost of therapeutics, and vaccines) and welfare of animal agriculture. The interaction involving nutrition and immunity and how the host deals with infection agents is a strategic determinant in animal health. Almost all nutrients in the diet play a fundamental role in sustaining an optimal immune response, such that deficient and excessive intakes can have negative consequences on immune status and susceptibility to a variety of pathogens. Dietary food components can regulate physiological functions of the body, interacting with the immune response is one of the most important functions of nutrients. The pertinent question to be asked and answered in the current era of poultry production is whether the level of nutrients that maximize production in commercial diets is sufficient to maintain competence of immune status and disease resistance. This question, and how to answer it, is the basis of this overview. Clearly, a better understanding of the interactions between the immune signaling pathways and productivity signaling could provide the basis for the formulation of diets that optimize disease resistance. Future experiments should be designed by evaluating the effect of a diet on specific immune mechanisms. By understanding the mechanisms of nutritional affects on the immune system, we can study the specific interactions that occur between diet and infections. This mechanism-based framework allows for experiments to be interpreted based on immune function during an infection. Thus, these experiments would provide a “real world” assessment of nutritional modulation of immune protection separating immune changes that have little impact on resistance from those that are truly important. Clearly, detailing specific mechanisms of how a diet can affect immunity, one can then evaluate how these mechanisms relate to various nutrients and pathogens. Therefore, a coordinated account of the temporal changes in metabolism and associated gene expression and production of downstream immune molecules during an immune response and how nutrition changes these responses, should be the focus of future studies. These studies could be answered using new –eomics technologies to describe both the local immune environments as well as the host-pathogen interface.

Last Modified: 8/24/2016
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