Authors: van Dijk, Jacintha G. B.; Mateman, A. Christa; Klaassen, Marcel.
Source: PLOS ONE, 9 (11), NOV 11 2014.
Brief summary of the paper: Maternal antibodies protect chicks from infection with pathogens early in life and may impact pathogen dynamics due to the alteration of the proportion of susceptible individuals in a population.
We investigated the transfer of maternal antibodies against avian influenza virus (AIV) in a key AIV host species, the mallard (Anas platyrhynchos). Combining observations in both the field and in mallards kept in captivity, we connected maternal AIV antibody concentrations in eggs to (i) female body condition, (ii) female AIV antibody concentration, (iii) egg laying order, (iv) egg size and (v) embryo sex.
We applied maternity analysis to the eggs collected in the field to account for intraspecific nest parasitism, which is reportedly high in Anseriformes, detecting parasitic eggs in one out of eight clutches. AIV antibody prevalence in free-living and captive females was respectively 48% and 56%, with 43% and 24% of the eggs receiving these antibodies maternally.
In both field and captive study, maternal AIV antibody concentrations in egg yolk correlated positively with circulating AIV antibody concentrations in females. In the captive study, yolk AIV antibody concentrations correlated positively with egg laying order.
Female body mass and egg size from the field and captive study, and embryos sex from the field study were not associated with maternal AIV antibody concentrations in eggs.
Our study indicates that maternal AIV antibody transfer may potentially play an important role in shaping AIV infection dynamics in mallards.