Aflatoxin is a widely occurring and harmful mycotoxin produced by strains of Aspergillus spp. growing on vegetable matter. We investigated the concentration of aflatoxin needed to impair normal physiologic responses and induce acute morbidity and mortality in Northern Bobwhites (Colinus virginianus). Ten wild-caught adult bobwhites (five males and five females) from southern Texas were randomly assigned to each treatment group (0, 100, 500, 1,000, and 2,000 parts per billion (ppb) aflatoxin; n=50). We orally administered 100 μL of aflatoxin, derived from Aspergillus flavus, once per week for 4 wk and monitored bird mass, daily feed consumption, liver histology, and blood chemistries. An in vitro white blood cell proliferation test was conducted using spleen tissue to determine the effect of aflatoxin on the immune system. There was no mortality in the control groups, whereas mortalities occurred in all treatment groups except in the 100 ppb aflatoxin treatment. Immunosuppression, reduction in gamma-globulin, glucose, and gamma-glutamyltransferase blood levels, and abnormal liver histology were observed in aflatoxin-exposed quail. Blood chemistry indicated cellular damage to the liver and kidneys. We concluded that short-term, acute doses of aflatoxin as low as 100 ppb can be detrimental to the health of Northern Bobwhites.
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Vol. 49 • No. 3