European badgers are a wildlife reservoir of bovine tuberculosis in parts of Great Britain. Accurate diagnosis of tuberculosis in badgers is important for the development of strategies for the control of the disease. Sensitive serological tests for badger TB are needed for reasons such as cost and simplicity. Assay of mucosal IgA could be useful for diagnosing respiratory pathogens such as Mycobacterium bovis
and for monitoring the response to mucosal vaccination. To develop an IgA assay, we purified secretory IgA from badger bile, identifying secretory component (SC), heavy chain (HC) and light chain (LC), at 66, 46 and 27 Kda, respectively, on the basis of size comparison with other species. Monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) were generated to purified IgA. We selected two for ELISA development. The detection limit of the IgA-specific mAbs was found to be approximately 20 ng/mL when titrated against purified badger bile. One monoclonal antibody specific for badger IgA was used to detect IgA in serum and tracheal aspirate with specificity to an immunodominant antigen of M. bovis
. An M. bovis
infection dose-dependent IgA response was observed in experimentally infected badgers. IgA was also detected by immunohistochemistry in the lungs of bTB-infected badgers. With further characterisation, these represent new reagents for the study of the IgA response in badgers.
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