Department of Food Science, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario N1G 2W1, Canada.
The avian egg contains all of the necessary nutrients and growth factors required for the developing embryo, including antibodies that are transported from the blood of the hen into the egg yolk to provide immunity to the chick. Since the discovery of egg yolk antibodies, now called immunoglobulin Y (IgY), in the late 1800s, this process has been harnessed to produce antigen-specific yolk antibodies for numerous applications in the medical and research fields, including in areas such as diagnostics and proteomics. However, one of the most valuable and promising areas of IgY research is its use for passive immunization to treat and prevent human and animal diseases. The following review covers the key features and advantages of IgY and the production and purification of IgY from the egg yolk, as well as highlights some of the most promising applications of egg yolk antibodies in human and veterinary medicine.