Nicotine and acetylcholine cause immunosuppresion by signaling to the α7 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (α7 nAChR) on immune cells. Neonicotinoids are nAChR agonists and widly used insecticides. We aimed to define the immunosuppressive potential of dietary exposure to the neonicotinoid imidacloprid (IMI) on the generation of innate and adaptive immune responses to porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus (PRRSV). Piglets were randomized into groups based on diet and infection. Behavioral signs of illness were recorded. Urine IMI levels were measured by high performance liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry. Flow cytometry was used to determine the expression pattern of the α7 nAChR on porcine leukocytes as well as the effects of infection and treatment on circulating leukocyte populations. Serum cytokines and PRRSV-specific antibody levels were determined by ELISA. Viral RNA in lung, spleen and plasma was determined by RT-qPCR. Pigs in the treatment group had elevated urine levels of IMI. Treatment with IMI reduced body weight, caused bouts of hypothermia, increased serum IL-10 and elevated levels of virus-specific antibodies. Viral RNA levels in the spleen showed a trend toward being increased in pigs fed IMI. Our data indicates that IMI injection may modulate virus specific immune function during PRRSV infection.
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