Peroral immunotherapy with yolk antibodies for the prevention and treatment of enteric infections

Immunol Res. 2000;21(1):1-6. doi: 10.1385/ir:21:1:1.


Oral administration of specific antibodies is an attractive approach to establish protective immunity against gastrointestinal pathogens in humans and animals. The increasing number of antibiotic-resistant bacteria emphasize the need to find alternatives to antibiotics. Immunotherapy can also be used against pathogens that are difficult to treat with traditional antibiotics. Laying hens are very good producers of specific antibodies. After immunization, the specific antibodies are transported to the egg yolk from which the antibodies then can be purified. A laying hen produces more than 20 g of yolk antibodies (IgY) per year. These antibodies also have biochemical properties that make them attractive for peroral immunotherapy: They neither activate mammalian complement nor interact with mammalian Fc receptors that could mediate inflammatory response in the gastrointestinal tract. Eggs are also normal dietary components and thus there is practically no risk of toxic side effects of IgY. Yolk antibodies have been shown in several studies to prevent bacterial and viral infections.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacterial Infections / prevention & control
  • Bacterial Infections / therapy*
  • Chickens / immunology
  • Egg Yolk / immunology*
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / microbiology
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / prevention & control
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / therapy*
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / virology
  • Humans
  • Immunization, Passive*
  • Immunoglobulins / administration & dosage
  • Virus Diseases / prevention & control*


  • IgY
  • Immunoglobulins