Antibodies directed toward gram-negative core antigens (GNCAs) have been demonstrated in many mammalian species but to date are unexamined in any avian species. An enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay with phenol-killed whole cell Escherichia coli J5 was used to assess the presence of serum antibodies directed toward GNCAs in chickens.
The first experiment consisted of collecting blood samples from randomly selected hens at egg laying ranches in northern California. The ages ranged from several days of age to 77 wk of age. Birds were classified into age groups (hatchling [1 day–4 wk], pullet [4–18 wk], pullet cycle [18–60 wk], and postmolt [>60 wk]) and husbandry style for titer comparison. The geometric mean titer (GMT) for all adult hens regardless of age was 2147. The geometric mean titers were 220, 5691, 2304, and 1776 for hatchlings, pullets, pullet cycle hens, and postmolt hens, respectively. The age group titer trends were similar to those of humans rather than those of farm animals in that the highest titers occurred during “adolescence” (pullets) and titers decreased slightly with maturity. The GMTs were 2870 for hens housed intensively and 1872 for those housed extensively.
The second experiment looked at the progression of GNCA titers within individual birds over a 1-yr period. Individual titers increased slightly throughout the study time of the second experiment.