Main content area

Immunotoxic effects of lead on birds

Vallverdú-Coll, Núria, Mateo, Rafael, Mougeot, François, Ortiz-Santaliestra, Manuel E.
The Science of the total environment 2019 v.689 pp. 505-515
T-lymphocytes, birds, cell-mediated immunity, immunotoxicity, ingestion, lead, mortality, pellets, sublethal effects
The ingestion of lead (Pb) shot pellets is a well-known cause of avian mortality, but exposure of birds to Pb may have other sublethal effects that can affect population sustainability. One of these effects is the alteration of the immunological status. Pb can affect most components of the avian immune system and imbalance the relationship among them. Pb exposure typically alters the ratio between Th1- and Th2-type responses mounted by different classes of T-lymphocytes, causing the depression of the Th1 responses that are associated with cell-mediated immunity. Immunodepressing effects of Pb on birds are observed at blood levels above 50 μg dL−1, but developing birds show immunodepressing effects at much lower concentrations (> 10 μg dL−1). Impacts of Pb on the avian immune system also relate to reduced resistance to infection. We review immunotoxic effects of Pb on birds affected by shot ingestion as well as by other sources of exposure to this element.