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The complex family of ergot alkaloids

Katia Pedrosa and Karin Griessler

The term ergot alkaloid refers to a diverse group of about forty different toxins which are formed by Claviceps spp. on grains (rye (see Figure 1), triticale, corn, wheat, barley, oats, millet, sorghum and rice) and by fungal endophytes such as Neotyphodium spp. in grasses, particularly tall fescue and perennial ryegrass,which adversely affects the health and productivity of livestock. This fungus produces the ergot responsible for the ergot alkaloid group of mycotoxins and parasitizes the seed heads of plants at the time of flowering.


Ergot alkaloids (also named ergolines) exert toxic effects in all animal species, and the most prominent toxic signs can be attributed to the interaction of ergot alkaloids with adrenergic, serotinergic and dopaminergic receptors.


The use of high quality feedstuffs to reduce toxicosis of ergot alkaloids in livestock is the first step in avoiding problems they can cause, but to totally protect animals from the increasing risk of ergot alkaloid poisoning, the inclusion of a mycotoxin counteracting product is recommended.


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Article made possible through the contribution of Biomin.
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