The immune system in the spotlight: Phytogenic support for piglets - Part 2
The exciting topic “immune system” is the subject of our latest blog post. A topic, that is of great interest in animal production, too, as a well-functioning, balanced immune system prevents diseases and thus economic losses while improving animal welfare. In part 2, we´re going to look at inflammation and its crucial role in the bodies defense against harmful stimuli. And what happens, if our “body police”, the immune system, gets out of balance?
Inflammation - expression of an organism's immune response
An important part of the bodies defense against harmful stimuli is inflammation. Here we want to present a more in-depth look at: What is meant by inflammation, how does it manifest and which role do cytokines play in this context?
An inflammation is a local and systemic response of a biological system, triggered by an internal or external stimulus (e.g., infection, injury) that threatens physiological processes. It is a defense mechanism, aiming for localization and elimination of the damaging stimulus, hence creating preconditions for repair processes, in other words "healing". Inflammation is thus an expression of the immune response of an organism, which expresses itself with typical cardinal signs such as redness, swelling, heat, pain, and functional restriction. Vasodilation is causing the redness and arising heat in the damaged tissue by increasing blood flow in the affected area. Fluid, proteins, and leukocytes (white blood cells) move from the circulatory system to the ‘place of action’ where mainly the cumulated fluid outside the blood vessels cause swelling. Finally, pain is caused by chemical mediators of inflammation such as bradykinin, serotonin, and prostaglandins or with swollen tissue pressing against sensitive nerve endings
Generally, it is distinguished between an “acute” inflammation, when the inflammatory response takes only some days and a “chronic” progress, when the inflammatory reactions go beyond this period.
Loosing balance – Immunity going rogue
The high complexity of the immune system of piglets enables it to react to many different problems. However, complexity comes at a cost and the required fine-tuning for regulation is sometimes out of control. Often either initiation or termination of an immune response or inflammation is not triggered with correct intensity, leading to a multitude of problems. Chronic inflammation is continuously ongoing as the stop signal is lacking. This may be due to failure in elimination of the agent causing inflammation (either by exposure to it or a pathogen resisting the immune system), defective cells responsible for mediating inflammation or autoimmune disorders. In case of autoimmune disorders components of the own body are not correctly recognized and labelled as foreign antigen, resulting in diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. Hypersensitive reactions of the adaptive immune system to antigens are the reason for allergies whereas a cytokine storm is caused by an exaggeration of the innate immune response and may result in multisystem organ failure and death.
These examples demonstrate the importance of a proper functioning immune system, the basis of which is set at a very early stage of life. In terms of livestock, this highlights the importance of supporting a balanced immune system in animals from the beginning, to fully exploit their genetic potential and prevent performance drops and even losses. Diseases are not only caused by acute infections with pathogens, but often being a consequence of previous issues during the early phase of life.
After her study in agriculture sciences at the university of natural resources and life sciences in Vienna, Elisabeth joined the Delacon family in December 2013 as Technical Communications Manager. A position, she still exerts with pleasure after her return from maternity leave and at alongside of Anne. Elisabeth describes herself as a great animal and nature lover and prefers to spend her free time high up in the mountains with her little family, away from the hustle and bustle.