The ability to control an immune response for the benefit and production efficiency of animals is the objective of immunomodulation in food-producing animals; substances that exert this control are called immunomodulators. A Spanish product (Inmunicín MAYMO®), based on food plant phytosterols, is being commercialized as complementary feed. The main component of this product is Beta-sitosterol (BSS). BSS and its glycoside (BSSG) have been shown to exhibit anti-inflammatory, anti-neoplasic, anti-pyretic and immune-modulating activity demonstrated by in vitro and in vivo experiments. The objective of the present study was to characterize the effect of BSS on the pig immune system using in vitro cell cultures first and to elucidate whether BSS possesses any in vivo activity in fattener pigs after vaccination with porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus (PRRSV) modified life vaccine (MLV). Firstly, our in vitro results showed that BSS increased viable peripheral blood mononuclear cell (PBMC) numbers and it activated swine dendritic cells (DCs) in culture. Secondly, pigs treated with phytosterols prior to vaccination with PRRSV-MLV vaccine exhibited some changes in immunological parameters at different times post-vaccination, such as the proliferation ability of PBMC after phytohemaglutinin stimulation and increased apolipoprotein A1 plasma concentration which may contribute to enhance PRRSV vaccine response. In conclusion, the data in this report show that BSS can be considered an immunomodulator in pigs.
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