Zinc Sulphate Turbidity as a Screening Test of Passive Transfer of Immunity in Newborn Foals

Endrigo Pompermayer, Flávio Desessards De La Cortê, Mara Iolanda Batistella Rubin

Abstract


Background: Passive immunity acquired by colostrum ingestion is essential to prevent neonatal infections. Failure of passive transfer (FPT) of maternal immunity occurs in foals that fail to absorb enough immunoglobulins within 24 h after birth. Foals with FPT are at increased risk of infections and death. Serum samples from neonatal foals might be examined for FPT using the zinc sulphate turbidity (ZST) test. The aim of this study was to investigate the accuracy of the ZST test, performed at two different times after first suckling (12 and 18 h), to detect FPT in newborn foals. The effect of temperature on the turbidity intensity resulting from the ZST reaction was also investigated.

Materials, Methods & Results: Blood samples were collected from 112 newborn foals at 12 h after the first colostrum intake. In 36 foals, additional serum samples were collected at 18 h after first colostrum intake. The serum samples were tested with the ZST test and, later, in the laboratory setting, the ZST test was repeated. The IgG levels were measured by single radial immunodiffusion (SRID), which was used as the reference method. The standard solution used for the interpretation of results had a turbidity corresponding to approximately 800 mg/dL of immunoglobulins (IgG). The mean IgG concentration measured at 12 and 18 h after the first colostrum intake was analyzed using the t-test for paired samples. Values of absorbance of ZST test under different temperatures were analyzed using a one-way analysis of variance, and means were compared using the Tukey test. The relationship between the temperature of the solution and absorbance was determined using the Pearson’s correlation coefficient. Based on SRID results, 12 foals (10.7%) had serum IgG concentration < 400 mg and 26 foals (23.2%) had IgG levels between 400 and 800 mg/dL. Serum levels of IgG determined by SRID in 36 foals were similar (P > 0.05) between 12 h (943.9 ± 508.6 mg/dL) and 18 h (975.9 ± 525.6 mg/dL) after the first colostrum intake. The sensitivity values were 76.3% and 71.0% (P > 0.05) for tests performed at farm and laboratory, respectively. The specificity was higher (P < 0.05) for ZST tests performed at laboratory (94.6%) than at farms (73.0%). Twenty-nine of the 38 foals (76.3%) with IgG < 800 mg/dL were correctly detected using the ZST test at farms. There was a strong correlation (r = 0.92; P < 0.0001) between the temperature of the solution test and the degree of turbidity. The absorbance after the reaction of serum with zinc sulphate was similar between the temperatures of 30, 34 and 37ºC, which had higher values than 20 and 25ºC.

Discussion: The ZST test can be performed at 12 h after the first suckling. The lower specificity of tests run at farms compared to laboratory resulted in more foals with false positive diagnosis. The main cause of false positives at farms was probably the low temperature of the zinc sulphate solution at the time of testing, delaying the reaction and underestimating the IgG concentration. This assumption was reinforced by the increased specificity observed when the test was repeated with the same serum samples under controlled temperature of a laboratory. Additionally, the positive correlation observed between the temperature and degree of turbidity confirms that the reaction is temperature dependent. In the Southern hemisphere, most Thoroughbred foals are born during winter, when room temperature is far below the ideal temperature for good performance of the ZST test. Therefore, the number of false positives will likely be reduced if tests are performed at the farms under adequate temperature of solution (between 30 and 37ºC). This will reduce the number of foals receiving unnecessary treatment.


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DOI: https://doi.org/10.22456/1679-9216.96105

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