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Scientific Leadership:  Fereidouni, Sasan, D.V.M., Ph.D., Conservation Medicine Unit


Immune defenses including innate and adaptive immune systems play a major rule for protection of wild animals in nature and are critical for host resistance to pathogens and parasites. Immunity and immune responses are highly flexible and many factors affect and modify the reactions:

  • physiological (such as individual character, breeding stage)
  • pathological (immunosuppressive pathogens or diseases)
  • environmental (season, safety)
  • toxicological

Constitutive innate immunity is an important part of the body immune system and provides the first line of defense and confers broad protection against a variety of invading pathogens and parasites. Innate immunity can act rapidly and efficiently without previous exposure to specific pathogens.

Our aim is to understand the immune responses of wildlife in their ecological environment. We study the innate and humoral immunity in wildlife, and factors affecting or interacting with the immune system, such as physiological or immunosuppressive factors, infections or toxins. We are not only interested in the immunological history of wildlife populations, but also in ecological factors that affect their immunocompetence. We use different tools to study innate and humoral immunity.


Immunological methods

We use different methods to assess innate and humoral immune functions:

  • We measure the ability of serum, plasma and whole blood to kill or suppress the standard Gram positive/-negative bacteria using several plate and micro-plate methods.  
  • We measure natural antibodies (Nabs) that are essential against blood-borne infections.
  • We measure complement activity to evaluate the complement system´s ability. The complement system is very important for destroying bacteria and viruses as a first line of defense.
  • We use competitive ELISA (cELISA) as a general tool to measure humoral immunity and antibodies against pathogens in a broad range of animals. This method is very important in accessing wildlife adaptive immunity.
  • Additional new methods are under study and validation in our lab.

Research areas:

  • Development and validation of methods to measure innate immunity in wild animals
  • Development and validation of serological methods such as competitive ELISA (cELISA) to measure humoral immunity in a range of wild animals
  • Study the environmental factors affecting the innate and humoral immune system
  • Study the effects of nano-particles on health and immune system of wild animals
  • Monitoring of antibodies against specific pathogens in wild animals