Adaptive Immunity ~ Use it or Lose it!
The following was edited to fit on one page for an ad in the Oct 15, 2007 Racing Pigeon Digest. Information within this article has been trucated to fit the page size of the magazine.
There have been several studies recently, which point to the potential dangers associated with repeated antibiotic usage. Though the studies were conducted on humans, we can take the findings and apply those general observations to our racing pigeons. The most interesting study, followed 14,000 children from birth to age seven. This study showed that those children who received antibiotic treatments early in life, appeared to develop dysfunctional immune responses when compared to those children who did not receive antibiotics. The conclusions of the scientists were: "Children who had received more than four courses of antibiotics were almost twice as likely to have asthma develop."
Scientists suggest, that asthma is a greater problem for these children because their immune systems did not learn how to properly respond to their environment. In other words, the “natural learning process” which leads to the development of a healthy immune response was superseded by multiple courses of antibiotic usage. The end result being, the immune response becomes “dumbed down” and loses the flexibility to “adapt and learn”. Obviously, broad spectrum antibiotics are even more likely to interfere with the “natural learning process” as these are capable of suppressing multiple microbial populations at the same time and thus interfere with multiple, concurrent, immune response learning processes.
I should point out that antibiotics can serve a valuable role in fighting infections, as they are sometimes “life saving” treatments. However, realize that the immune system not only "inherits" its defense mechanisms, but it also "learns", by trial and error, the best procedures for dealing with every pathogen with which it will come in contact. This learning process, when allowed to proceed naturally, leads to an improved immune response which can then be duplicated or modified as needed, in order to suppress new infections by the pathogenic invaders. We call this process of “learning, memorizing and duplicating” the correct immune response, “Adaptive Immunity”.
The Problem: Many in our sport try to replace the natural immune response in our birds, with medications and antibiotics. We treat our breeders prior to the formation of the egg and this may well dilute the effectiveness of the immune factors passed in the egg to the embryo. We continue treating the parents and any babies while in the nest, reducing the immune factors passed in the pigeon milk. We treat youngsters while they are on the floor of the breeding loft and again after we move them into the YB section. We then put these youngsters on a 3-in-1, 4-in-1, or 5-in-1 “cure all” health program. Some fanciers prefer to cycle through a weekly rotation of different medications and antibiotics, in the hope of treating “any and all” possible pathogens.
The End Result: We are crippling the “adaptive immunity” of our birds! The immune system of our youngbirds are not allowed to “learn” how to successfully; encounter, identify, interdict and destroy many of these pathogens on its own. It is not allowed to come to a complete solution and then to imprint that solution into its immune “history”, through genetic adaptation of its antigen receptors, “B” and “T” memory cells, somatic mutations, etc. Since the bird has not learned how to successfully adapt it immune response, it cannot recall from its “immunological memory”, the solution, nor can it pass these “immunological adaptations” (immune factors) to its own young, during egg formation nor in the pigeon milk.
A pigeon passes “immunological adaptation” to its young twice, once in the egg and once again in the pigeon milk. Scientist sometimes refer to this transference process as the “immune factor”. Most all mammals pass this “immune factor” in their milk. However, if the parent does not have a competent “history” to pass to the youngster then the immune response of that youngster is diminished, since there is only an incomplete blueprint of how to respond to certain pathogens. This leads to generation after generation of impaired “immunological memory” being passed on, and this may well point to why our birds seem less resistant today to diseases, than they were 30 or more years ago. The generations of pathogens are adapting faster than our birds!
The important information for us is that if the process of “adaptive” immune response is short circuited by continued usage of medications and antibiotics, there will be far less adaptive genetic encoding (learning) and therefore, diminished long-lived specific immunity. If the bird's immune response does not learn the solution, it cannot self-duplicate the solution nor pass that adaptation of the genetic encoding (antigen receptors, B and T memory cells, somatic mutations, etc.) to its progeny either in the egg or in the pigeon milk.
A window of opportunity exist during the first few weeks and months of a pigeon's life, where the immune system is most receptive to learning and adapting. If this opportunity is squandered, through multiple courses of medication and antibiotic treatments, a negative health effect will follow the bird throughout its life and pass to it's offspring.
Here is a link to an interesting article on our bird's most important organ for fighting infections
Please feel free to visit our products area for "All Natural" Immunity Building Products that support the natural learning process of the Immune System at: http://www.racingpigeonmall.com/loft/products/index.html