The metalloid arsenic and the chlorinated insecticide endosulfan are common environmental contaminants. Humans, animals, and birds are exposed to these chemicals through water and food. Although health effects due to either arsenic or endosulfan exposure are documented, the toxicological impact of co-exposure to these environmental pollutants is unpredictable and unknown. The present study was undertaken to assess whether concurrent exposure to arsenic and endosulfan induces significant alterations in immunological functions. Day-old chicks were exposed to 3.7 ppm of arsenic via drinking water and to 30 ppm of endosulfan-mixed feed either individually or concurrently for up to 60 days.
All the chicks were vaccinated with Ranikhet disease virus (F-strain; RD-F) on days 1 and 30. During the course of study and at term, parameters of cellular and humoral immunity were determined. None of the treatments altered the absolute body weight or body weight gain, except arsenic significantly reduced weight gain on day 60. Absolute, but not the relative, weights of spleen, thymus and bursa of Fabricius were significantly reduced in all the treatment groups. The metalloid and insecticide combination significantly depressed the ability of peripheral blood and splenic lymphocytes to proliferate in response to antigen RD-F and mitogen Con A. The delayed type hypersensitivity response to 2,4-dinitro-1-chlorobenzene or to PHA-P was also significantly decreased. Nitric oxide production by RD-F or lipopolysaccharide-stimulated peripheral blood and splenic mononuclear cells was significantly suppressed following concurrent exposure to arsenic and endosulfan.
Furthermore, the combined exposure also decreased the antibody response to RD-F. The suppression of cellular and humoral immune responses was also evident following administration of individual compounds, and it was not exacerbated following concurrent exposure. To our knowledge, this is the first report describing the suppression of immune responses following exposure to arsenic alone or in combination with endosulfan at environmentally realistic concentrations in avian species. Therefore, immunotoxicological effects induced by concurrent exposure to arsenic and chlorinated pesticides should be considered when assessing the risk to human and animal health.