After analysing colostrum from 14 mares and blood samples from foals collected at birth and again 24 hours later, researchers found that cytokines are passed in colostrum from mare to foal and play an important role in passive transfer of immunity.
This is reported by Kentucky Equine Research (KER), based on conclusions from the study: Cytokine levels in colostrum and in foals’ serum pre- and post-suckling, published in Veterinary Immunology and Immunopathology.
Interestingly, the studied interleukins, most notably IL-4, fall under the umbrella of pro-inflammatory rather than anti-inflammatory molecules. Researchers believe pro-inflammatory proteins help stimulate a foal’s immune system to function appropriately, helping to activate immune system memory, rather than directly fighting infection.
The authors of the paper acknowledge that “colostrum, containing not only antibodies but also other molecules such as growth factors, cytokines, lymphoid and non-lymphoid cells, should be studied in greater depth to better understand the cytokine profile of neonatal foals.”