Ronja Mathiesen

Friday 7 December Ronja Mathisen will defend her PhD titled: 

The importance of the immunological competence of the mink dam for the development of pre-weaning diarrhea in mink kits


One of the biggest concerns on Danish mink farms during the pre-weaning period is the disease pre-weaning diarrhea (PWD) which decreases the welfare of mink kits and also gives rise to mink mortality. Mink kits affected by this syndrome display a distressed vocalized behavior, yellow/white diarrhea, red and swollen perianal region, increased secretions in the neck region and in severe cases the kits can dehydrate and die. It can lead to huge financial losses due to treatment costs, loss of kits and decreased quality of the pelts. The biggest challenge in controlling PWD is that it is considered multifactorial and any specific cause remains unknown, although an infectious component might be included. The fact that 1-year-old dams have a higher risk of getting kits affected by PWD compared to 2-year old dams might suggest that the maturity of the maternal immune system, including the spectrum of antigenic specificities acquired by the adaptive immune system, i.e. the immunoglobulins play a role in protecting mink kits from getting PWD. We investigated how the maternally derived immune factors from the mother can affect the immune status of the mink kits and possibly protect against PWD. The kits are born with a very immature immune system and with very low circulating concentrations of IgG acquired by the fetus through the placenta and subsequent supply of IgG from maternal milk is crucial for the kits to build up resistance against environmental pathogens. Using our validated ELISA for quantifying total IgG we found a significant association between reduced serum concentration of IgG and PWD in mink kits. This reduction was not due to a low concentration of IgG in the milk of the mink dams and so the uptake of IgG might be compromised in the kits affected by PWD and should be investigated more thoroughly. Whether the reduced IgG in kits affected by PWD is due to the syndrome or the syndrome is developing due to the reduced concentration, and thus reduced immune system, is yet to be established. Finding a possible threshold of IgG concentration in serum and association with increased risk of developing PWD could pave the way to IgG supplements given to the kits to increase their IgG above the threshold.

  • Professor Peter M. H. Heegaard, DTU Bioengineering
  • Senior Executive Veterinarian Officer Mariann Chriél, DTU VET
  • DVM, PhD Tina Struve, Kopenhagen Fur, Denmark 
  • Professor Gregers Jungersen, DTU Bioengineering 
  • Dr., Private Consultant, Project Manager Olivier Detournay, PLANKTOVIE sas, France  Associate Professor Hans Henrik Dietz, University of Copenhagen 
Chairperson at the defence
  • Senior Researcher Kerstin Skovgaard, DTU Bioengineering

All are welcome. Registration is not necessary.


Fri 07 Dec 18
13:00 - 16:00


Building 101, meeting room M1