Anti-Plasmodium spp. antibody titers of mating pairs of adult, captive-reared, African black-footed penguins (Spheniscus demersus) and their chicks were determined using the enzyme-linked-immunosorbent assay (ELISA). Two Plasmodium falciparum antigens were used for the ELISA: R32tet32 (sporozoite antigen), and crude red blood cell extract (CRBCE). Eighteen chicks were bled weekly for ten weeks starting with their day of hatching. The yolk sacs of two penguin eggs were biopsed for ELISA-detectable maternal antibodies (MAB). None of the 28 adult penguins were parasitemic by Giemsa-stained thin blood smear; however, all had anti-Plasmodium spp. immunoglobulins reacting with P. falciparum antigens. All 18 newly hatched chicks had anti-Plasmodium spp. MAB while housed in a mosquito-free environment. The level of MAB in the newly hatched chicks was correlated significantly (P < 0.001) with antibody level detected in their female parents (R32tet32: r = 0.87, CRBCE: r = 0.89). No correlation was found between antibody titers of the newly hatched chicks and their male parents. The level of maternal-fetal antibodies was regressed significantly (P < 0.001) over the 10-week period. Penguin chicks over 10 weeks of age had no anti-Plasmodium spp. MAB. Egg-yolk samples had significantly (P < 0.03) higher MAB titers than female parents that laid these eggs.
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Vol. 30 • No. 3