Merck Manual

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Aflatoxicosis in Poultry


Frederic J. Hoerr

, DVM, PhD, Veterinary Diagnostic Pathology, LLC

Last full review/revision Sep 2019 | Content last modified Oct 2019
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The aflatoxins are toxic and carcinogenic metabolites of Aspergillus flavus, A parasiticus, and others. Aflatoxicosis in poultry primarily affects the liver but can involve immunologic, digestive, and hematopoietic functions. Aflatoxin adversely affects:

  • weight gain

  • feed intake

  • feed conversion efficiency

  • pigmentation

  • processing yield

  • egg production

  • male and female fertility

  • hatchability

Susceptibility to aflatoxins varies, but in general, ducklings, turkeys, and pheasants are susceptible, whereas chickens, quail, and guinea fowl are relatively resistant.

Aflatoxin causes:

  • general unthriftiness with high morbidity and mortality possible

  • lesions in the liver, reddened due to necrosis and congestion or yellow due to lipid accumulation

  • hemorrhages in liver and other tissues

Aflatoxins are carcinogenic, but tumor formation is rare with natural disease, probably because the animals do not live long enough for this to occur.

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