We examined the effects of lead ingestion on in vitro and in vivo indices of immune function in mallards (Anas platyrhynchos). Twenty-four mallard drakes were randomly divided into three groups (I, II, III), then assigned to treatment or control subgroups (n = 4). On day 0, all treatment birds were dosed orally with one number 4 lead shot (x̄ = 0.2 g). We challenged all individuals in each group with washed sheep red blood cells (SRBC) injected intraperitoneally on days 0 (Group I), 7 (Group II) or 14 (Group III), and collected blood for analyses 7 and 8 days after SRBC challenge. We measured and compared blood lead concentrations, in vitro lymphocyte transformation responses to phytohemagglutinin A and lipopolysaccharide, and hemagglutination titers to SRBC. Mean blood lead concentrations were elevated (P ≤ 0.04) in treatment birds at each sampling period. Large individual variability in lymphocyte stimulation responses precluded further analysis of those data. Hemagglutination titers to SRBC were lower (P < 0.0001) in lead-poisoned ducks than in controls, suggesting that ingested lead may have immunosuppressive effects on mallards.
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