Salivary IgA in Female Cross Country Runners: The Correlation to Training Level and URTI Risk

Student Author(s)

Lauren Maslyk

Faculty Mentor(s)

Dr. Mark Northuis

Document Type


Event Date



This primarily descriptive study observed the changes in salivary Immunoglobulin A (IgA) levels and rate of Upper Respiratory Tract Infection (URTI) that occurs during “normal training in collegiate cross country women”. Previous research has indicated a significant negative correlation between training and IgA in various athletic groups that may put athletes at an increased risk for infection, specifically URTI. This study aimed to find a quantitative measurement of IgA levels that might act as an indicator for overtraining. The study also investigated whether IgA levels would increase during taper training (reduced mileage) at the end of the season, which may indicate how rested an athlete is for championship competition. Twenty-four college aged females participated in this study [14 cross-country (XC) athletes, 10 moderately active controls]. Participants followed their usual workout regimen during the 10-week study. Logs were used to record perceived exertion of workout, infection symptoms, motivation, and tiredness measures. Weekly, participants provided a 2mL saliva sample via passive drool. Samples were assayed using an ELISA protocol for IgA concentration. Five of the top eight XC runners reported sickness during the study, with two demonstrating significant decrease (p<0.05) in IgA during week of sickness. Similarly, six of nine control participants reported URTI symptoms, with three demonstrating a significant decrease in IgA during sick week. Mean IgA levels significantly increased in the top eight XC runners from weeks 6 to 7 (p<. 012) and weeks 6 to 9 (p<. 017) positively correlating with reduction in training volume and intensity during weeks 7 and 9. The correlation between IgA and URTI is limited, but it appears that tapering does produce a rebound in salivary IgA levels.

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