Functions of innate and acquired immune system are reduced in domestic pigeons (Columba livia domestica) given a low protein diet Academic Article uri icon


  • Racing pigeons are exposed to and act as carriers of diseases. Dietary protein requirement for their maintenance has not been determined experimentally despite their being domesticated for over 7000 years. A maintenance nitrogen (protein) requirement (MNR) for pigeons was determined in a balance study using diets containing 6, 10 and 14% crude protein (CP). Then, the effects of feeding the diets were investigated to determine whether they were adequate to sustain innate and acquired immune functions. Nitrogen intake from the 6% CP diet was sufficient to maintain nitrogen balance and body weight in pigeons. However, the immune functions of phagocytosis, oxidative burst and lymphocyte proliferation in pigeons fed this diet were reduced compared with those fed 10 and 14% CP diets. Pigeons given the 6 and 10% CP diets had lower antibody titres following inoculation against Newcastle disease (ND) than those on the 14% CP diet. A confounding factor found on autopsy was the presence of intestinal parasites in some of the pigeons given the 6 and 10% CP diets; however, none of the pigeons used to measure MNR or acquired immunity to ND were infested with parasites. In conclusion, neither the 6 nor 10% CP diets adequately sustained acquired immune function of pigeons.

publication date

  • 2016