Veterinary immunology: preventing and treating diseases

21-05-2020
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Veterinary immunology is an area that influences medical practice in viral, bacterial and parasitic diseases. It also applies to zoonoses, which are animal pathologies transmissible to humans.

When we hear about veterinary immunology, the allergies that affect our animals come to mind. We also associate this term with diseases such as inflammation in arthritis. However,  this area of ​​study involves almost all animal health disciplines. It more specifically applies to the diagnosis, prevention, treatment and control of infectious and autoimmune diseases.

Knowledge of the particular characteristics of the immune system is concentrated on domestic animals, but is also applicable to farm animals, wild animals, and which are used for scientific experiments.

In these times of global crisis and pandemic, terms like the immune system , vaccines, prevalence and more are on the agenda. But, what few people know is that there are branches of veterinary studies that are responsible for applying them in the animal world. In this article, we explain everything you need to know about veterinary immunology.

Une peluche chien avec une seringue représentant l'immunologie vétérinaire

Vaccines as a development product for veterinary immunology

It is a fact that  the prevalence – for existing cases – of animal diseases threatens their breeding as well as public health. Since their discovery, the vaccine application strategy has been essential to control various infectious animal pathologies. We all have in mind diseases like the flu A or the swine flu. Two zoonoses that can affect humans.

Furthermore, it is important to know that an effective vaccination strategy  requires paying attention to several factors such as the quality of the vaccine and the protocol of application. In addition, it is important to check its effect by quantifying, for example, protective antibodies in the blood.

All these subjects as well as the formulation of new vaccines and the effects of adjuvants on vaccinations require the application and development of veterinary immunology.

Un petit cochon noir et rose

Veterinary immunology on domestic and farm animals

The animal immune system exerts its protective action through various mechanisms. The components of natural immunity – also called nonspecific or innate immunity – are present before exposure to infectious microorganisms. This includes :

  • Physical barriers such as skin and mucous membranes
  • Molecules in the blood as the complement system
  • Phagocytic blood cells  : these are aggressive natural cells called natural killer
  • Cytokines: these are proteins that travel through the blood and direct the immune response. For example, interferons and tumor necrosis factor

On the other hand,  specific or acquired immunity refers to the defense mechanisms that are induced or stimulated by exposure to foreign substances. They react specifically with the infectious agent that induces them. Thanks to acquired immunity, vaccines are effective in protecting the body from possible infections.

Vaccines expose weakened or dead forms of the pathogen to our immune system. The animal’s body is therefore able to recognize and fight it without being infected.

Furthermore, veterinary immunology in the diagnosis of diseases refers to the detection of pathogens such as viruses, bacteria and animal parasites, by serology methods . It also applies to the development and testing of new diagnostic approaches. In addition, laboratory methods can also be used to determine susceptibility to antibiotics.

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