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Aflatoxicosis

Groundnut (peanut) Poisoning, Turkey X-disease

Aflatoxins (AF) are a class of mycotoxins, produced by fungal species of the genus Aspergillus (flavus and parasiticus) and Penicillium puberulum, that are often found in the ingredients used to make poultry feed. Foods known to be at a high risk of aflatoxin contamination include corn, cottonseed, peanuts, sorghum, tree nuts, and wheat. There are four main aflatoxins of concern: aflatoxin B1 (AFB1), B2 (AFB2), G1 (AFG1), and G2 (AFG2); AFB1 is the most common and biologically active.
Crops can become contaminated with aflatoxins while growing in the field, during harvesting, transportation, mixing, or during storage. It grows best at temperatures of 80 to 90°F (26.6 to 32.2°C), and can survive in temperatures as low as 40°F (4.4°C). The mold also requires a high moisture content, and can emerge with 15% moisture content.

The FDA and the EU regulate the amount of aflatoxins present in human food, animal feed, and animal feed ingredients.
  • For chick starter and grower feeds, corn, and peanut products, excluding cottonseed meal: Must contain less than 20 ppb
  • For laying hen feed and other mature poultry: Must contain less than 100 ppb
  • For cottonseed meal intended for all types and ages of poultry: Must contain less than 300 ppb
The adverse effect of aflatoxins depends on the age, species, nutritional status of ducks as well as the dose and length of time it was consumed. Aflatoxicosis refers to poisoning from ingestion of aflatoxins in contaminated food or feed. Both acute and chronic aflatoxicosis can occur, however the chronic form is the most prevalent. Chronic aflatoxicosis occurs as a result of prolonged intake of low levels of aflatoxins in a duck's diet. Resulting adverse affects include:
  • Immunosuppression: Increases susceptibility to secondary infection by opportunistic pathogens.
  • Reduced vaccine effectiveness: Decreases resistance against viral pathogens, increasing the risk of acquiring the disease they are getting vaccinated against.
  • Gastrointestinal tract damage: Causes erosion and roughening of the gizzard lining, resulting in decreased absorption of nutrients, stunted growth, nutrient-deficient related syndromes, and lowered feed conversion.
  • Liver damage: The primary site of toxicity due to aflatoxins is the liver. Exposure causes hepatic lesions and enlargement of the liver as well as fatty liver.
  • Production losses: Decreases egg production and egg quality in laying ducks and hatchable eggs in breeding ducks.
Preventative Absorbents

Absorbent/ProductReference
Allium spp (Garlic) extractEl-Barbary MI 2016
Bacillus subtilisZhang L et al., 2016; Jia R et al., 2016; Fan Y et al., 2015; Fan Y et al., 2013
Beer fermentation residue (BFR)Bovo et al., 2015
Bentonite clayShannon TA et al., 2016; Fowler J et al., 2015; Rosa CA et al., 2001
Berevibacillus laterosporusBagherzadeh K et al., 2012
Cactus cladode extract (CCE)Brahmi D et al., 2011
Cellulosimicrobium funkeiLiu J et al., 2016; Sun LH et al., 2015
Citrus fruit oilKumar DS et al., 2015
Curcuma longa (Tumeric) extractGholami-Ahangaran et al., 2016; El-Mahalaway AM 2015; Rangsaz et al., 2011; Yarru LP et al., 2009; Gowda NK et al., 2008
Dried banana peelShar ZH et al., 2016
Hydrated sodium calcium aluminosilcateChen X et al., 2014; Neef DV et al., 2013
LactobacillusMonson MS et al., 2015; Rawal S et al., 2014
Mycofix SelectLee JT et al., 2012
NanosilverGholami-Ahangaran M et al., 2014, 2013
Natural honeyYaman T et al., 2016
Neutral electrolyzed oxidizing water (NEW)Jardon-Xicotencatl S et al., 2015
Nigella sativa (Black cumin)Khan SH et al., 2013; Aydin R et al., 2008
ResveratrolSridhar M et al., 2015
Rosmarinus officinalisManafi et al., 2014
Saccharomyces cerevisiae (Yeast Extract)Magnoli AP et al., 2016; Pizzolitto RP et al., 2013; Pizzolitto RP et al., 2012; Matur E et al., 2011; Matur E et al., 2010
SeleniumChen et al., 2014
Sodium bentoniteMonge Mdel et al., 2016; Miazzo R et al., 2005
Urtica dioica seed (Stinging nettle) extractUyar A et al., 2016

Symptoms

Ruffled feathers
Incoordination
Depression
Weight loss
Weakness
Convulsions
Jaundice
Diarrhea
Paralysis
Reduced feed and water consumption
Reduced eggs laid
Abnormal eggshells

Diagnosis

  • History
  • Clinical signs
  • Aflatoxin Quantitative ELISA test
  • Aflatoxin rapid screen test

Support/Treatment

1qt Bird charcoal For Small Birds - Activated charcoal granular
UAA Universal Animal Antidote Gel, 60ml, Easy Dose Syringe, for use as Emergency First aid for combating Poisoning
Nature's Answer Milk Thistle Extract | Promotes Healthy Liver Function | Cleanse and Detox Supplement
HomeoPet Liver Rescue - formerly Cleanz-Detox
MethodMethod Summary
Supportive careIsolate the bird from the flock and place in a safe, comfortable, warm location (your own duck "intensive care unit") with easy access to water and food. Limit stress. Call your veterinarian.
Remove source of potential toxin source to prevent further illness among other flock members.

Reported Cases

  • Case 1: Aflatoxicosis in a Chickens Two outbreaks of aflatoxicosis occurred in two different flocks of 9-week-old and 4-day-old chickens on the same farm. Both flocks were fed feed made from the same company. Clinical signs of spastic paralysis of the legs started after 2 weeks of being fed a diet contaminated with mycotoxins. Several of the birds who were still able to walk, would walk for only a few seconds before showing full body trembling. Their gait was incoordinated and off balance (ataxia). The affected bird's diet was still good, despite the difficulty they had accessing the food and water due to difficulty walking. Samples of the feed were sent to a diagnostic lab for analysis of the presence of aflatoxins, which came back positive. Ref

  • Case 2: Aflatoxicosis in a Laying hens A flock in North Carolina was raised on a farm where the farmer manufactured his own corn that was used to feed the chickens. Within 48 hours after receiving the corn, the birds started dying. One of the bins of corn was inspected and found to be covered with mold and had a sharp musty odor. Samples were sent to a lab and confirmed to be contaminated with mycotoxins. Ref

Prevention

  • Use of mycotoxin-binding adsorbents
  • Application of some herbal extracts of plant origin like turmeric (Curcuma longa), garlic (Allium sativum) and asafetida (Ferula asafetida) have shown to counteract aflatoxicosis in animals and poultry through their antioxidant activity.
  • Increasing the crude protein content and supplementation of additional levels of riboflavin, pyridoxine, folic acid and choline showed protective effect against aflatoxicosis
  • Antioxidants like BHT and l-napthoflavone, vitamin C and vitamin E offer protection against aflatoxin induced genotoxicity in in vitro studies.

References

Age Range

Ducklings are most sensitive to aflatoxins.

Risk Factors

  • Environmental stresses (drought, prolonged rain, etc.)
  • Feeding insect infested poultry feed or feedstuff to birds
  • Feeding the flock poultry feed or feedstuff that is over 2 to 3 weeks old
  • Improperly storing feed and feedstuff, so that it is not protected from moisture
  • Purchasing low quality feed

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