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Vet Res. 2004 Jan-Feb;35(1):103-12.

The effects of a single injection of dexamethasone-21-isonicotinate on the lymphocyte functions of dairy cows at two weeks post partum.

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Department of Farm Animal Health, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Yalelaan 7, Utrecht, The Netherlands.


Dexamethasone is a potent therapeutic for treatment of the fatty liver syndrome or primary ketosis in post partum dairy cows. Reservations exist, however, among practitioners with respect to the risk of immunosuppression induced by corticosteroids. The aim of this study was to investigate the effect of a single injection of dexamethasone-21-isonicotinate on distinct immune functions of postpartum dairy cows because only scarce information is available on the effects of corticosteroid preparations when administered at a dosage and frequency for treatment of the fatty liver syndrome or primary ketosis. Sixteen Swedish red-pied dairy cows, between days 9 and 15 post partum, were allotted to either a control group (n = 8) or a treatment group (n = 8). The cows in the treatment group received a single intramuscular injection of a dexamethasone-21-isonicotinate suspension at a dosage of 0.02 mg/kg i.m. at the start of the experiment. White blood cell counts and selected lymphocyte functions (lymphocyte proliferation, expression of lymphocyte markers and the b2 and a4 chain of adhesion molecules belonging to the integrin family) and some parameters of the energy metabolism (glucose, insulin) were determined before the administration of corticosteroids (day 0) and subsequently at days 2, 4, 7 and 9 of the experiment. Changes in glucose and insulin were within the target range for treatment of the fatty liver syndrome or primary ketosis. Significant (P < 0.05) increases in the number of circulating white blood cells were observed in treated cows on the second day following treatment which was exclusively caused by an increase in the number of circulating neutrophils. Lymphocyte blastogenesis in response to ConA and the percentages of lymphocytes positive for CD2, CD4, CD8, CD49d and CD18 as well as the intensity of CD49d expression did not differ between the treatment and control groups. There was, however, a significant reduction (P < 0.01) in the intensity of CD18 expression on lymphocytes in the treated animals on the fourth day after treatment. In conclusion, a single administration of dexamethasone-21-isonicotinate in a dosage of 0.02 mg/kg i.m. at two weeks post partum in healthy cows had a significant but highly transient effect on CD18 expression on lymphocytes and the number of peripheral blood neutrophils, but did not affect lymphocyte blastogenesis or lymphocyte subpopulation patterns in peripheral blood.

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