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November 27, 2013

Experts gather in Vienna to discuss latest immunity research and the challenges of dairy cow transition

An international  audience  of 150 vets and scientists  recently attended a symposium  on the topic of transition  cow immunity,  courtesy of Elanco Animal Health. The event took place in Vienna on 5th and 6th of November. At the event, six professors from Germany, Poland, Israel, the UK and US presented the latest thinking on how immunity, in particular innate immunity, is compromised during the vital 90 days (60 days pre and 30 days post calving).

Professor Holm Zerbe opened the event by highlighting the challenges presented by transition as the cow switches from immunotolerance  of the foetus as an ‘antigen’, to development of a pro-inflammatory state after parturition as the immune system goes into a ‘full power decontamination’.

In particular, the rise in BHBA (betahydroxybutyrate) levels around transition due to the high energy   demands   and   reduced   energy   supply   is   associated   with   profound   effects   on neutrophils, such as reduced phagocytosis and impaired chemotactic  migration. The speakers described   the   way   in  which   fat   metabolism,   inflammation   and   immune   function   are interlinked and how the picture during the ‘vital 90 days’ is far from a simple effect triggered purely by negative energy balance.

 Live topics included a rationale for the different presentations of mastitis caused by E. coli and S.  aureus,  with  specific  differences  attributed  to  inappropriate   calibration   of  the  innate immune response to these pathogens and cytokine expression.

 The importance  of neutrophils  and the significance  of mechanisms  of action were discussed by Professor James Roth from the US and Professor Shpigel from Israel, using some powerful imagery including animation and electron microscopy of the phenomenon of NETS (neutrophil extracellular  traps)  –  a  possible  newly  identified  mechanism  by  which  neutrophils  might control pathogens.

 Scientists and veterinarians enjoyed discussing their own perspectives on immunity at a series of informal  dinners.  This merging  of viewpoints  regarding  practical  applications  and ground breaking research proved to be highly successful and an interactive roundtable at the end of the day’s proceedings resulted in an impressive 132 questions being submitted for discussion. It’s clear that veterinarians saw enormous opportunities to improve dairy cow health and production emerging as a result of improved understanding of the mechanics of immunity.