An episode of suboptimal growth, poor feathering and behavioural abnormalities in broilers in Scotland during the winter of 1980-81 is described. This was considered to be associated with mould-contaminated maize and wheat components of the feed, from which fusaria were isolated in persistently high numbers. Four species, Fusarium culmorum, F tricinctum, F nivale and F moniliforme, were identified. Chloroform extracts of the raw materials and of an artificial medium in which three of the Fusarium species were cultured proved toxic to tissue cultures of a human epithelial cell line (HEp II). Specific identification by thin layer chromatography of the mycotoxins deoxynivalenol, zearalenone and diacetoxyscirpenol was achieved in some extracts. In addition, several other areas of the chromatograms were found to be toxic in the HEp II cell system and these may contain toxins for which standards were not available or, alternatively, previously uncharacterised fungal metabolites. It was concluded that the toxins produced by the fusaria were major contributing factors to the disease symptoms shown by the birds.
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