Immunology of uterine infections

The immune function of the endometrium of a post partum cow is influenced by the metabolism of the cow and circulating progesterone levels.

Influence of metabolism on immune function of endometrium

The uterine lumen of most post partum cows is contaminated with environmental bacteria.Elimination of contamination is dependent on uterine involution, regeneration of the endometrium and uterine defence mechanisms.

The defence system is responsible for combating bacterial contamination of the uterus via a range of anatomical, physiological, phagocytic and inflammatory mechanisms.

The first and most important phagocytic cells to enter the lumen are neutrophils. In many post partum cows, the functional capacity of neutrophils is reduced. Zerbe et al. (2000) demonstrated that metabolic disease, and especially increased blood level of liver triacilogycerols were associated with reduced cytotoxic activity in neutrophils from the general circulation and the uterine wall, predisposing to uterine disease.

Influence of progesterone on immune function of the endometrium

The post partum endocrine environment strongly effects the uterine immune response. Lewis (2003) showed that luteal phase concentrations of progesterone suppress the immune response making the uterus more susceptible to bacterial infection. Lewis concluded that susceptibility to uterine infections is associated with:

  1. Increased progesterone concentrations
  2. Reduced PGF2α production
  3. Reduced lymphocyte proliferation in vitro.
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