Page Banner

United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: LIVESTOCK LOSSES FROM ABORTIFACIENT AND TERATOGENIC PLANTS

Location: Poisonous Plant Research

Title: The good and the bad of poisonous plants: An introduction to the USDA-ARS Poisonous Plant Research Laboratory

Authors
item Welch, Kevin
item Panter, Kip
item Gardner, Dale
item Stegelmeier, Bryan

Submitted to: Journal of Medical Toxicology
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: January 31, 2012
Publication Date: June 14, 2012
Citation: Welch, K.D., Panter, K.E., Gardner, D.R., Stegelmeier, B.L. 2012. The good and the bad of poisonous plants: An introduction to the USDA-ARS Poisonous Plant Research Laboratory. Journal of Medical Toxicology. 8(2): 153-9.

Interpretive Summary: This article provides an overview of the Poisonous Plant Research Laboratory (PPRL), about the unique services and activities of the PPRL, and the potential assistance we can provide to plant poisoning incidences. The mission of the PPRL is to identify toxic plants and their toxic compounds, determine how the plants poison animals, and develop diagnostic and prognostic procedures for poisoned animals. Furthermore, PPRL’s mission is to identify conditions under which poisoning occurs and develop management strategies and treatments to reduce losses. While the mission of the PPRL primarily impacts the livestock industry, spinoff benefits such as development of animal models, isolation and characterization of novel compounds, elucidation of biological and molecular mechanisms of action, national and international collaborations and outreach efforts are significant to biomedical researchers. Examples of how information gained through livestock-based research efforts have also resulted in human biomedical applications is presented. Information that we typically provide to livestock owners/managers, veterinarians, extension agents etc to help them determine if a plant poisoned their animals is also presented. Although this section was written with a focus on livestock, similar principles could apply for cases of human poisonings. In summary, the PPRL is a USDA research laboratory that studies plants that poison livestock, however, many of these plants are also toxic humans. Additionally, many plant toxins have been adopted as tools for biomedical investigations from plants that were first investigated for the problems inflicted on the livestock industry. Scientists at the PPRL are always willing to help with poisoning incidences in any manner they can including plant identification and toxin analysis.

Technical Abstract: Introduction: This article provides an overview of the Poisonous Plant Research Laboratory (PPRL), about the unique services and activities of the PPRL, and the potential assistance we can provide to plant poisoning incidences. Discussion: The PPRL is a federal research laboratory. It is part of the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), the in-house research arm of the U.S. department of agriculture (USDA). The mission of the PPRL is to identify toxic plants and their toxic compounds, determine how the plants poison animals, and develop diagnostic and prognostic procedures for poisoned animals. Furthermore, the PPRL’s mission is to identify the conditions under which poisoning occurs and develop management strategies and treatments to reduce losses. Information obtained through research efforts at the PPRL is mostly used by the livestock industry, natural resource managers, veterinarians, chemists, plant and animal scientists, extension personnel, and other state and federal agencies. PPRL currently has 9 scientists and 17 support staff, representing various disciplines consisting of toxicology, reproductive toxicology, veterinary medicine, chemistry, animal science, range science, and plant physiology. This team of scientists provides an interdisciplinary approach to applied and basic research to develop solutions to plant intoxications. While the mission of the PPRL primarily impacts the livestock industry, spinoff benefits such as development of animal models, isolation and characterization of novel compounds, elucidation of biological and molecular mechanisms of action, national and international collaborations and outreach efforts are significant to biomedical researchers. Conclusions: The staff at the PPRL has extensive knowledge regarding a number of poisonous plants. Although the focus of their knowledge is on plants that affect livestock, oftentimes these plants are also poisonous to humans and thus similar principles could apply for cases of human poisonings. Consequently, the information provided herein can be adapted accordingly by healthcare providers for human cases as well.

Last Modified: 9/2/2014
Footer Content Back to Top of Page