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Immune function and organochlorine pollutants in arctic breeding glaucous gulls

  • JO Bustnes
  • SA Hanssen
  • I Folstad
  • KE Erikstad
  • Dennis Hasselquist
  • JU Skaare
Publishing year: 2004
Language: English
Pages: 530-541
Publication/Series: Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology
Volume: 47
Issue: 4
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: Springer

Abstract english

Organochlorine contaminants (OCs) are known to affect the immune systems of wildlife, and in this study we assessed the relationship between blood concentration of different OCs and measurements relevant to immune status and function in arctic breeding glaucous gulls (Larus hyperboreus). In 1997 and 2001, we counted white blood cells (heterophils and lymphocytes) from blood smears, and in 2000 and 2001 we injected two novel nonpathogenic antigens (diphtheria and tetanus toxoids) into the pectoral muscle of gulls and measured the primary antibody responses. We then related these measurements to the blood concentrations of three pesticides (hexachlorobenzene [HCB], oxychlordane, and p,p'-dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene) and seven different polychlorinated biphenyl congeners (PCB 101, 99, 118, 153, 138, 180, and 170). There were significant or near significant positive relationships (0.1 > p > 0.001) between most persistent OCs and the levels of heterophils in the blood for both sexes in 1997 and for male gulls in 2001. Similarly, levels of all persistent OCs and lymphocytes were positively related (0.1 > p > 0.001) in both sexes in 1997. This suggests that OCs are causing alterations to immune systems, which may decrease their efficiency and make the birds more susceptible to parasites and diseases. In female gulls, the antibody response to the diphtheria toxoid was significant and negative for HCB (p <0.01) and weaker, but significant, for oxychlordane (p <0.05), suggesting that OCs were causing an impairment of the humoral immunity. Various OCs have been linked to negative effects in our study population, including decreased survival and reproduction, and this study suggests that such compounds also affect immune status and function.


  • Biological Sciences


  • Molecular Ecology and Evolution Lab
  • ISSN: 0090-4341
Dennis Hasselquist
E-mail: dennis [dot] hasselquist [at] biol [dot] lu [dot] se



+46 46 222 37 08



Research group


Doctoral students and postdocs

Research fellows


Jacob Roved

PhD Students, main supervisor

PhD Students, assistant supervisor


Interview about my research in the Swedish podcast "Forskarn & jag"