Endocrinology indicators

Hi everyone! It’s Molly here. This month I wanted to tell you about one of the animal welfare indicators that we are using in the endocrinology lab: Immunoglobulin A, or IgA for short. You may have heard briefly about IgA through our chimpanzee welfare study updates, but did you know…


1.     IgA is a type of antibody made by both mammals and birds.
2.     IgA’s main role is to prevent microorganisms such as bacteria and viruses from damaging or invading an animal’s body. This makes IgA a potentially useful indicator of an animal’s health and immune status.
3.     IgA can be found at any mucosal surface in an animal’s (including yours) body such as the mouth, gut, lungs, and eyes.
4.     IgA is more abundant than all other types of antibodies combined. In fact, healthy humans can produce up to 3 grams of IgA per day in their gut alone!
5.     Since IgA is produced and secreted into the gut, IgA is also present in poop! This means we can use poop to non-invasively monitor changes in IgA levels.
6.     IgA is important for animals of all ages. While animals grow and develop, IgA from their mothers helps to protect them from disease. Mammalian mothers provide IgA to their offspring through their milk while avian mothers put IgA in their eggs.

DSC_7117-Sophie-and-Baby_937x625.jpg Mothers such as Sophia help protect their infants from disease through IgA in their milk. 

7.     Changes in IgA levels can be influenced by hormones and changes to an animal’s emotional state. By taking a holistic approach to animal welfare monitoring we can better understand what changing IgA levels mean.
8.     In fact, changing IgA levels can be a good thing. Practices that promote good welfare such as enrichment, training and exercise, and positive social interactions can have long-term, positive effects on IgA levels.

Enrichment and other activities that promote good welfare can positively affect IgA levels.

Hopefully you’ve learned some fun and interesting facts about IgA that you can share with your friends! On our end, we’re continuing to learn more about IgA as a welfare indicator and plan to implement IgA monitoring in additional species beyond chimpanzees. Stay tuned for updates!

Posted: 6/30/2017 12:47:19 PM by Bryan Todd Oakley

CZS & Brookfield Zoo

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