Comparison of diagnostic tests for assessment of transfer of passive immunity in beef calves

Attainment of adequate transfer of passive immunity (TPI) is critical to health of calves; however, studies comparing available tools for measurement of TPI in individual beef animals are limited. The objective of this study was to report agreement between 4 tests evaluating individual TPI status in beef calves. 

Retrospective study to assess serum immunoglobulin (IgG) concentrations via turbidimetric immunoassay (TI), gamma-glutamyl transferase (GGT), serum total protein (TP), and single radial immunodiffusion (RID; reference standard). Test agreement was evaluated using Passing-Bablok regression, Bland-Altman analysis, Cohen's kappa, and receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curves. 

One hundred ninety-six beef calves born to cows and heifers presenting for calving management or dystocia were enrolled. Correlation between RID and test results varied: TI, ρ = 0.757; TP, ρ = 0.715; GGT: ρ = 0.413. For the TI compared to RID, regression analysis identified a constant (intercept = -0.51 [CI: -2.63, 3.05]) and proportional (slope = 1.87 [CI: 1.69, 2.08]) bias. Based on ROC, TI concentrations of ≤9.89 and ≤13.76 g/L, and TP concentrations of ≤5.5 and ≤6.0 g/dL, indicated IgG concentrations <18.0 and <25.0 g/L, respectively. 

Within this cohort of calves, TI demonstrated the best correlation with RID; however, significant bias was identified which led to frequent underestimation of IgG concentration. Serum total protein demonstrated less correlation with RID but had less misclassification than TI. Both TI and TP demonstrated less correlation for calves that received colostrum replacement prompting clinical awareness of colostrum type when evaluating individual TPI in beef calves. 


“Comparison of turbidometric immunoassay, refractometry, and gamma-glutamyl transferase to radial immunodiffusion for assessment of transfer of passive immunity in high-risk beef calves”. Amanda J Kreuder, et al. J Vet Intern Med. 2023 Aug 7.  doi: 10.1111/jvim.16831 


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