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ARS Home » Midwest Area » Lexington, Kentucky » Forage-animal Production Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #310771

Title: Cases of ergotism in livestock and associated ergot alkaloid concentrations in feed

item Klotz, James

Submitted to: Frontiers in Chemistry: Chemical Biology
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 1/22/2015
Publication Date: 2/18/2015
Citation: Craig, A., Klotz, J.L., Duringer, J.M. 2015. Cases of ergotism in livestock and associated ergot alkaloid concentrations in feed. Frontiers in Chemistry: Chemical Biology. 3:8. doi:10.3389/fchem.2015.00008.

Interpretive Summary: This perspective article establishes that although we have been documenting the effects of ergot alkaloids for hundreds of years, only a paltry amount of information is available to accurately diagnose disease at a clinical level (where animal production is affected and animal welfare becomes a concern). The first step in expanding this information should be establishing the threshold level in different species, particularly cattle and horses that could be exposed to ergot alkaloids in their feed. It should be noted that overseas, camels, goats, and sheep are also frequently exposed to these toxic alkaloids. The second step is to establish other bio-indicators of clinical disease other than prolactin levels, weight gain, and some of the more classical animal observances. Thirdly, separate both the vasoconstrictive and convulsive effects of their ergot alkaloids and their subsequent clinical consequences.

Technical Abstract: Ergot-induced disease has been known long before Biblical times and has been the root cause for countless human epidemics spanning from the early fourteenth century to the late sixteenth century. In contrast, many of these same ergot alkaloids have been utilized for their medicinal properties to mitigate migraine headaches and have had a presence in anticarcinogens. Although ergot alkaloids have been used for centuries, basic pharmacokinetic data has not been documented for clinical disease. Consequently, a threshold dose and accurate dose-response data has yet to be established for clinical disease cases. Throughout the past several years, new detection techniques have emerged to detect these alkaloids at the parts per billion. These extremely sensitive technologies and procedures have allowed for new efforts with respect to pharmacokinetics in determining threshold levels and making accurate clinical diagnoses. This perspectives article is the critical initial step in establishing a uniform interpretation of ergot toxicosis from limited existing data.