Skip to main content
ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Logan, Utah » Poisonous Plant Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #315976

Research Project: Understanding and Mitigating the Adverse Effects of Poisonous Plants on Livestock Production Systems

Location: Poisonous Plant Research

Title: White snakeroot poisoning in goats: Variations in toxicity with different plant chemotypes

Author
item Davis, Thomas - Zane
item Stegelmeier, Bryan
item Lee, Stephen
item Green, Benedict - Ben
item EVANS, TIM - University Of Missouri
item Grum, Daniel
item BUCK, STEVE - University Of Illinois
item MEYERHOLTZ, KIMBERLY - Purdue University

Submitted to: Research in Veterinary Science
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 2/16/2016
Publication Date: 2/28/2016
Publication URL: https://handle.nal.usda.gov/10113/62915
Citation: Davis, T.Z., Stegelmeier, B.L., Lee, S.T., Green, B.T., Evans, T.J., Grum, D.S., Buck, S., Meyerholtz, K.A. 2016. White snakeroot poisoning in goats: Variations in toxicity with different plant chemotypes. Research in Veterinary Science. 106:29-36.

Interpretive Summary: White Snakeroot is a toxic plant that causes human and livestock diseases known as the trembles and milk sickness. Historically, white snakeroot was reported to have killed hundreds of livestock and people when poisoning devastated early settlements in the midwestern United States. White snakeroot toxins were initially identified as tremetol which is thought to be mixtures of benzofuran ketones including tremetone, dehydrotremetone, 3-hydroxytremetone, and 6-hydroxytremetone. However, disease has not been reproduced with purified toxins and the concentrations of the benzofuran ketones in white snakeroot that cause toxicosis have not been documented. Additionally, different white snakeroot populations throughout the Midwestern United States vary significantly in both reported toxicity and benzofuran ketone concentrations.

Technical Abstract: White Snakeroot is a toxic plant that causes human and livestock diseases known as the trembles and milk sickness and historically devastated entire settlements. White snakeroot toxins, which differ significantly in plant populations, were initially identified as tremetol which is thought to be mixtures of benzofuran ketones including tremetone, dehydrotremetone, 3-hydroxytremetone, and 6-hydroxytremetone. However, disease has not been reproduced with purified toxins and the concentrations of the benzofuran ketones in white snakeroot that cause toxicosis have not been documented. The objectives of this study were to compare the toxicity of various white snakeroot populations, better characterize the clinical and pathologic changes of poisoning, and correlate intoxication with benzofuran ketone content and concentrations. Eight groups of 4 goats were treated, at 2 % of their body weight, with 7 different white snakeroot collections or equal amounts of alfalfa for 10 days. Four of the 7 white snakeroot populations were toxic demonstrating toxicological differences in plant populations. Affected goats became exercise intolerant and had significant increases in aspartate aminotransferase, alanine aminotransferase, lactate dehydrogenase, and creatine kinase activities. At necropsy affected animals had pale, soft streaking through many of the large appendicular muscle. Histologically there was extensive skeletal muscle necrosis with inflammation, fibrosis and regeneration. The incidence and severity of poisoning did not seem to be associated with total dose of tremetone or benzofuran ketones suggesting the involvement of an unidentified toxin in the disease. The results also demonstrate that white snakeroot populations vary chemically and toxicologically.