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Lactating rats reinfected with Nippostrongylus brasiliensis fed low-crude protein (CP) foods show reduced lactational performance and less resistance to parasites compared with their high-CP counterparts. Here, we hypothesised that feeding high-CP foods deficient in specific essential amino acids (AA) would result in similar penalties. Second-parity lactating rats, immunised with 1600 N. brasiliensis infective larvae before mating, were fed foods with either 250 (high protein; HP) or 150 (low protein; LP) g CP/kg, or were HP deficient in either leucine (HP-Leu) or methionine (HP-Met). On day 1 of lactation, litter size was standardised at twelve pups. On day 2, dams were either reinfected with 1600 N. brasiliensis larvae or sham-infected with PBS. Dams and litters were weighed daily until either day 8 or 11, when worm burdens, and inflammatory cells and systemic levels of N. brasiliensis-specific Ig isotypes were assessed. Data from five out of sixteen HP-Met rats were omitted due to very high levels of food refusals from parturition onwards. Relative to feeding HP foods, feeding LP, HP-Met and HP-Leu foods reduced dam weight gain and, to a lesser extent, litter weight gain, and increased the number of worm eggs in the colon, indicative of a reduction in resistance to parasites. However, only feeding LP and HP-Leu foods resulted in increased worm numbers, while none of the feeding treatments affected systemic Ig, mast and goblet cells, and eosinophil numbers. The present results support the view that resistance to parasites during lactation may be sensitive to specific essential AA scarcity.

Original publication





The British journal of nutrition

Publication Date





273 - 282


Animal Health, SAC, Roslin Institute Building, Easter Bush, Edinburgh, UK.


Gastrointestinal Tract, Feces, Animals, Rats, Rats, Sprague-Dawley, Nippostrongylus, Strongylida Infections, Weight Loss, Leucine, Methionine, Antibodies, Helminth, Diet, Protein-Restricted, Random Allocation, Immunity, Mucosal, Immunocompromised Host, Larva, Lactation, Female, Maternal Nutritional Physiological Phenomena, Parasite Load