#FAQ: Avian antibodies – Immunoglobulin Y(IgY)

23. Jan 2020 | 5 min read

#FAQ: Avian antibodies – Immunoglobulin Y(IgY)

Avian antibodies in our commercial products since 2005

Gentian has applied avian antibodies with great success in commercial products since 2005. We have used chicken antibodies since the start of our development of our Cystatin C Immunoassay in 2003, when antibodies purified from chicken eggs were validated. Our expertise in avian antibody production allows us to create highly scalable antibody solutions with very low interference for our assays.

What are avian antibodies?

Immunoglobulin Y (IgY) is the major antibody isotype in avian species (birds) and has a similar biological role as mammalian IgG. It is present in the egg yolk.

In addition to high quality and high affinity, it is also positive that collecting eggs is a more humane process for the animals producing antibodies.

What are the characteristics of avian antibodies?

Immunoglobulin Y (IgY) is the major antibody type in birds, which is the avian equivalent to mammalian IgG. Both mammalian IgG and avian IgY consist of two heavy chains and two light chains. Despite similar biological roles there are differences in immunological and physical-chemical characteristics between IgY and IgG [1, 2].

Because of the development of the species throughout evolution there are bigger differences between avian and mammalian antibodies, than between mammalian species antibodies. These differences seem to have several advantages in assay development, for instance when it comes to interference from human anti animal antibodies (HAAA) [5].



What are the main advantages with avian antibodies?

Less interference

IgY based immunoassays are expected to be associated with less interference from human samples. The human complement system is not activated by the chicken antibodies.

No reactions

There is no reaction between the avian antibodies and human anti animal antibodies (HAAA), for instance anti mouse antibodies or rheumotaid factor (RF). HAAA and RF are considered a major problem in immunoassays as they are a well-known cause of erroneous test results in tests based on mammalian antibodies [3]

More colloidally stable

IgY coated polystyrene particles appear to be more colloidal stable when compared with their IgG counterpart [4].

How are avian antibodies produced?

The avian antibodies are produced by immunising hens with the specific antigen multiple times [5]. The IgY is transferred from the serum of the mother hen into the egg yolk [6]. The egg yolk is separated from the egg white and the preferred IgY is isolated by affinity chromatography after precipitation [7].



Which of Gentian products are using avian antibodies today?

Gentian uses chicken antibodies in all their products


What are the most widely used antibodies in immunoassays today?

Today it is still the mammalian immunoglobin G (IgG) antibodies that are the most widely used antibodies in immunoassays. Nonetheless, we see an increasing interest in using avian antibodies immunoglobulin Y (IgY), which, in many cases, can improve the performance of immunoassays.


[1] Warr, G. W., Magor, K. E. and Higgins, D. A. 1995. “IgY: Clues to the Origins of Modern Antibodies.” Immunology Today 16 (8): 392–98.

[2] Sun et al. 2001. “Preparation and mass spectrometric study of egg yolk antibody (IgY) against rabies virus.” Rapid Commun Mass Spectrom 2001;15(9):708-12.

[3] Carlander and Larsson 2001. “Avian antibodies can eliminate interference due to complement activation in ELISA.” Ups J Med Sci. 2001;106(3):189-95.

[4] Davalos-Pantoja et al. 2000. “A comparative study between the adsorption of IgY and IgG on latex particles.” Journal of Biomaterials Science Polymer Edition 11(6):657-73

[5] Carlander 2002. “Avian IgY antibody: in vitro and in vivo.” Phd Thesis - University of Uppsala, Faculty of Medicine (Sweden). Available from: http://uu.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:161296/FULLTEXT01.pdf

[6] Losch 1996. “How Do the Antibodies Get into the Chicken Egg?” ALTEX 13. http://www.altex.ch/resources/altex_1996_Supp_1_15_17_Loesch.pdf.

[7] Nilsen 2018. “Avian antibodies applied in particle enhanced turbidimetric immunoassay: Development of serum/plasma calprotectin immunoassay and its clinical performance as a marker for bacterial infections” Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Medicine and Pharmacy, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Medical Sciences, Clinical Chemistry and Gentian AS.

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