Background: We aimed to determine the effect of feeding transgenic maize to sows during gestation and lactation on maternal and offspring immunity and to assess the fate of transgenic material.
Methodology/principal findings: On the day of insemination, sows were assigned to one of two treatments (n = 12/treatment); 1) non-Bt control maize diet or 2) Bt-MON810 maize diet, which were fed for ~143 days throughout gestation and lactation. Immune function was assessed by leukocyte phenotyping, haematology and Cry1Ab-specific antibody presence in blood on days 0, 28 and 110 of gestation and at the end of lactation. Peripheral-blood mononuclear cell cytokine production was investigated on days 28 and 110 of gestation. Haematological analysis was performed on offspring at birth (n = 12/treatment). Presence of the cry1Ab transgene was assessed in sows' blood and faeces on day 110 of gestation and in blood and tissues of offspring at birth. Cry1Ab protein presence was assessed in sows' blood during gestation and lactation and in tissues of offspring at birth. Blood monocyte count and percentage were higher (P<0.05), while granulocyte percentage was lower (P<0.05) in Bt maize-fed sows on day 110 of gestation. Leukocyte count and granulocyte count and percentage were lower (P<0.05), while lymphocyte percentage was higher (P<0.05) in offspring of Bt maize-fed sows. Bt maize-fed sows had a lower percentage of monocytes on day 28 of lactation and of CD4(+)CD8(+) lymphocytes on day 110 of gestation, day 28 of lactation and overall (P<0.05). Cytokine production was similar between treatments. Transgenic material or Cry1Ab-specific antibodies were not detected in sows or offspring.
Conclusions/significance: Treatment differences observed following feeding of Bt maize to sows did not indicate inflammation or allergy and are unlikely to be of major importance. These results provide additional data for Bt maize safety assessment.