Health monitoring in birds using bio-loggers and whole blood transcriptomics

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Monitoring and early detection of emerging infectious diseases in wild animals is of crucial global importance, yet reliable ways to measure immune status and responses are lacking for animals in the wild. Here we assess the usefulness of bio-loggers for detecting disease outbreaks in free-living birds and confirm detailed responses using leukocyte composition and large-scale transcriptomics. We simulated natural infections by viral and bacterial pathogens in captive mallards (Anas platyrhynchos), an important natural vector for avian influenza virus. We show that body temperature, heart rate and leukocyte composition change reliably during an acute phase immune response. Using genome-wide gene expression profiling of whole blood across time points we confirm that immunostimulants activate pathogen-specific gene regulatory networks. By reporting immune response related changes in physiological and behavioural traits that can be studied in free-ranging populations, we provide baseline information with importance to the global monitoring of zoonotic diseases.


  • Elinor Jax
  • Inge Müller
  • Stefan Börno
  • Hanna Borlinghaus
  • Gustaw Eriksson
  • Evi Fricke
  • Bernd Timmermann
  • Helene Pendl
  • Wolfgang Fiedler
  • Karsten Klein
  • Falk Schreiber
  • Martin Wikelski
  • Katharine E. Magor
  • Robert H.S. Kraus
External organisations
  • Max-Planck Institute of Animal Behavior
  • University of Konstanz
  • Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics
  • Monash University
  • Pendl Lab
  • University of Alberta
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Microbiology
Original languageEnglish
Article number10815
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2021 Dec 1
Publication categoryResearch