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J Anim Sci. 2011 May;89(5):1603-26. doi: 10.2527/jas.2010-3478.

Board-invited review: St. Anthony's Fire in livestock: causes, mechanisms, and potential solutions.

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  • 1USDA-ARS, Forage-Animal Production Research Unit, Lexington, KY 40546, USA. jim.strickland@ars.usda.gov


After a brief history of ergot alkaloids and ergotism, this review focuses on the metabolism and mechanisms of action of the ergot alkaloids. The authors provide models of how these alkaloids afflict grazing livestock under complex animal-plant/endophyte-environmental interactions. Alkaloid chemistry is presented to orient the reader to the structure-function relationships that are known to exist. Where appropriate, the medical literature is used to aid interpretation of livestock research and to provide insight into potential modes of action and alkaloid metabolism where these are not known for livestock. In closing the paper, we discuss management of ergot alkaloid intoxication in livestock and future research needs for this field of study.

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