Chicken egg yolk antibodies as therapeutics in enteric infectious disease: a review

J Med Food. Fall 2002;5(3):159-69. doi: 10.1089/10966200260398198.


Passive immunization by oral administration of specific antibodies has been an attractive approach against gastrointestinal (GI) pathogens in both humans and animals. Recently, laying chickens have attracted considerable attention as an alternative source of antibodies for the prevention and treatment of infectious GI diseases. After immunization, the specific antibodies (called IgY) are transported to the egg yolk, from which the IgY then can be separated without sacrificing chickens. A chicken usually lays about 280 eggs in a year, and egg yolk contains 100-150 mg of IgY per yolk, suggesting that more than 40 g of IgY per year can be obtained from each chicken through eggs. IgY is also an alternative to antibiotics for treatment of enteric antibiotic-resistant pathogens. Oral administration of IgY has proved successful for treatment of a variety of GI infections, such as bovine and human rotaviruses, bovine coronavirus, Yersinia ruckeri, enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli, Salmonella spp., Edwardsiella tarda, Staphylococcus, and Pseudomonas. The IgY technology offers great future opportunities for designing prophylactic strategies against infectious GI diseases in humans and animals. However, there is still controversy regarding the stability of IgY through the GI tract. Finding an effective way to protect the antibodies from degradation in the GI tract would open the door for significant advances in IgY technology and nutraceutical applications.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

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


  • IgY
  • Immunoglobulins