Dietary Antibodies for Immune Strength

14 August 2020

Christine Warzecha, Territory Sales Manager, Trouw NutritionBy Christine Warzecha 
Territory Sales Manager

One of our top priorities as pet owners is to spend as many memorable moments together with our four-legged family members for as long as possible. Promoting longevity starts with building a strong foundation of immunity at a young age and maintaining this shield of protection throughout the animal’s adult life.

Laying the groundwork early on can help prepare the immune system for challenges faced by older pets later in life. As our pets age, their immune systems can steadily decline, leading to less efficient and unbalanced responses to daily challenges. This weakness can result in chronic inflammation, heightened susceptibility to infection, and the onset of other metabolic issues. Ensuring our pets have the right nutritional tools to maintain immune strength and live a healthy and comfortable life are of utmost importance. One solution is the use of dietary antibodies sourced from distinctly unique eggs that can be included as part of your pet’s daily diet. 

The Immune Response
The immune system contains cells, proteins and other molecules that work together to provide protection against invading pathogens. Our pets have two defense layers within the immune system: the innate and adaptive systems that respond to highly diverse challenges to maintain health. 

The innate system is the first line of protection and provides immediate response to invaders, also known as antigens, like pathogenic bacteria, viruses and toxins. The innate system is made up of physical barriers (such as the skin and mucous membranes), white blood cells (such as monocytes, neutrophils, natural killer cells) and other blood proteins (such as the complement system). Think of these components as the “first responders” that are always present and respond rapidly in a nonspecific manner to the antigen. The adaptive immune response, also known as the second line of defense, is activated when the innate immune response is insufficient and cannot control an infection with the above-listed resources.

As the second line of defense, the adaptive system takes a more targeted approach to fighting infection by recruiting lymphocyte cells to produce substances called antibodies, which are large Y-shaped proteins that have memory of a bacterial or viral antigen. The antibody, also known as an immunoglobulin (Ig), actually physically binds to the antigen itself and neutralizes it so that scavenger cells in our immune system can destroy and flush them out of the body. The production of antibodies in response to a challenge is important so that the body creates a long-lasting memory to recognize the invader again and prevent future infection from occurring. The successful defense against an invader requires a coordinated and balanced effort between both the innate and adaptive immune responses.

Immune Development
Whereas active immunity refers to the process of eliminating antigens and developing memory to the exposure, passive immunity refers to the transfer of antibodies from one individual to another, either maternally or through commercial preparations. The most common occurrence of maternal immunity transfer can be seen in newborn animals. Immediately following birth, the innate immune system is responsible for the initial processing of antigens until the adaptive immune system becomes fully functional. Fortunately, the mother’s colostrum and milk provide a concentrated source of maternal antibodies (immunoglobulins), which are consumed by the young animal through passive transfer and aid in building the adaptive system. Passive transfer of maternal antibodies from the milk can provide immediate protection. The immunoglobulins produced in the mother’s milk are a direct result of her immunological status and what antigens she has been exposed to throughout her life. As the young animal ages, the immune system will then primarily rely on active immunity acquired through natural challenges it will face in the environment or through vaccination. 

Newborn animals receive immunoglobulins via their mother’s colostrum but this maternal “passive” immunity quickly declines as the newborn ages. ImmuFlexTM harnesses antibodies and other functional proteins of immunized eggs to bridge the immune gap.

Newborn animals receive immunoglobulins via their mother’s colostrum but this maternal “passive” immunity quickly declines as the newborn ages. ImmuFlexTM harnesses antibodies and other functional proteins of immunized eggs to bridge the immune gap. 

Dietary Egg Antibodies
In birds, passive transfer of maternal immunity occurs through the egg. The yolk itself contains a concentrated source of immunoglobulin Y (IgY), which is very similar to the structure of mammalian immunoglobulins. In commercialized egg antibody products, also referred to as “immune eggs,” the eggs are carefully selected from hens that have already developed antibodies to a number of antigens they have been exposed to at some point in their lifetime. The hen passes her maternal antibodies and other immune-modulating materials to the yolk, which is then spray-dried into a powder and can be fed to other mammalian species and utilized by the immune system. The quantities of specific antibodies are much higher in these specially sourced eggs from hens that have highly mature and sophisticated immune systems compared to conventional table eggs. 

Types of Immune Responses

The body combats antigens using four types of immune responses.The body combats antigens using four types of immune responses.

Supporting Research
A meta‐analysis based on 61 experimental protocols evidenced that feeding antibody-enhanced egg products significantly reduces the risk of gastrointestinal infections in mice, poultry, piglets and calves (Diraviyam et al., 2014). In other trials, puppies fed antibody-enhanced egg products were protected when encountering E.coli and Salmonella spp, experienced less fluctuations in the gut microflora, tended to have improved fecal quality and increased IgA (Reynolds and Knorr, 2006), and gained more weight over their entire neonatal period (Mila et al., 2017).

Although antibody consumption, both through maternal transfer and through dietary intervention, has primarily been observed to benefit young animal immune development, the use of supplemental dietary antibodies for mature animals and humans shows promise. Antibody-enhanced products could benefit individuals with immunocompromised systems, irritable bowel syndrome, and other chronic inflammatory conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis (Muller et al., 2015; Morningstar et al., 2004; Katayama et al., 2011).

Immune dysregulation occurs when the immune system becomes unbalanced or uncoordinated in its responses to challenges. For example, immune cells mistakenly attack healthy cells in our body instead of foreign antigens or when uncontrolled activation of immune cells persists. This imbalance can lead to chronic inflammation, which can manifest in the joint, leading to swelling and mobility issues. A strong, well-coordinated and balanced immune response will support a lower inflammatory status, which can help promote comfort and longevity in pets.

Feeding the Immune System with ImmuFlexTM
ImmuFlex is a specialized egg product that provides the necessary support to help the immune system overcome life’s challenges. When orally administrated in adequate amounts, key components in the egg, such as antibodies, are extremely beneficial for supporting the immune system. A well-balanced immune system is crucial for young, mature and aged animals to remain healthy and maintain a lower inflammatory state. ImmuFlex can be used in soft chews and powdered supplements to support immune strength for all life stages.

Diraviyam, T., Zhao, B., Wang, Y., Schade, R., Michael, A., & Zhang, X. (2014). Effect of chicken egg yolk antibodies (IgY) against diarrhea in domesticated animals: A systematic review and meta-analysis. PLOS ONE, 9(5).

Katayama, K., Matsuno, T., Waritani, T., Terato, K., & Shionoya, H. (2011). Supplemental treatment of rheumatoid arthritis with natural milk antibodies against enteromicrobes and their toxins: Results of an open-labelled pilot study. Nutr J, 10(2). 

Mila, H., Grellet, A., Mariani, C., Feugier, A., Guard, B., Suchodolski, J., Steiner, J., & Chastant-Maillard, S. (2017). Natural and artificial hyperimmune solutions: Impact on health in puppies. Reproduction in Domestic Animals, 52(2), 163-169. 

Morningstar, M.W. (2004). Hyperimmune egg powder for the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome: A case series. J Chiropr Med., 3(1), 12-14.  

Müller, S., Schubert, A., Zajac, J., Dyck, T., & Oelkrug, C. (2015). IgY antibodies in human nutrition for disease prevention. Nutr J, 14(109). 

Reynolds, A.J. & Knorr, R. (2006). Effect of feeding hyperimmunized egg powder on indices of gastrointestinal stress in exercising puppies, Compendium on Continuing education for Practicing Veterinarian, 28(4), 53-53.