Carotenoids modulate the effect of coccidian infection on the condition and immune response in moulting house sparrows

Péter László, Csongor István Vágási Pap, Gábor Arpád Czirják, Adriana Titilincu, Adela Pintea, Zoltán Barta

Research output: Article

21 Citations (Scopus)


In the present study, we experimentally manipulated coccidian parasitism and dietary carotenoid availability in a fully factorial experiment in male house sparrows (Passer domesticus Linnaeus), and tested whether carotenoid supplementation reduces the cost of parasitism in terms of condition, moult and immune responses. We found that coccidians have a significant but transient negative effect on body mass, which can be reduced if birds have access to carotenoid supplementation in their diet. Experimental manipulation had no significant effect on the moulting parameters of the birds measured following coccidian infestation and during the whole moulting period. Carotenoid supplementation increased the plasma carotenoid concentration in both infested and medicated birds treated with a coccidiostatic drug; however, after two months exposure to parasites, plasma carotenoid concentration increased only in the carotenoid-supplemented and medicated group whereas no difference was observed between the carotenoid-supplemented and infested and non-supplemented groups. On the contrary, coccidian infestation was not affected by carotenoid supplementation. Experimental infestation decreased the antibody response to sheep red blood cells (SRBCs), although no significant effect was observed in the capacity of the birds to respond to a mitogenic challenge with phytohemagglutinin. Within the experimentally infested groups birds with carotenoid-supplemented food tended to have an increased anti-SRBC humoral immune response. The positive correlation between coccidian infestation and the strength of the humoral immune response against SRBCs in the non-supplemented and infested groups indicates that this part of the immune system plays an important role in defence against these parasites.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3228-3235
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number20
Publication statusPublished - okt. 15 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Physiology
  • Aquatic Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Insect Science

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