Blue-green algae (Microcystis aeruginosa) hepatotoxicosis in dairy cows.

F. D. Galey, V. R. Beasley, W. W. Carmichael, G. Kleppe, S. B. Hooser, W. M. Haschek

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Twenty cows from a dairy herd consisting of 60 healthy, lactating Holsteins developed clinical signs of anorexia, mental derangement, dehydration, recumbency, and ruminal atony after ingesting water containing blue-green algae. Of the 20 cows, 9 died. The algal bloom, which developed in a stagnant pond during hot, dry weather, was identified as the cyanobacterium Microcystis aeruginosa, a potentially hepatotoxic algae. One week after the onset of toxicosis, affected cows seemed healthy, although liver-associated enzyme activities (alkaline phosphatase, gamma-glutamyl transferase, aspartate transaminase, and lactate dehydrogenase) were increased. Intraruminal administration of the intact wet bloom to a healthy 125-kg Angus heifer was followed by hepatic necrosis and death. The liver was large, friable, and gun-metal blue, with microscopically evident hepatocyte dissociation, degeneration, and necrosis. The ingesta of the heifer contained typical clumps of cells that were identified as M aeruginosa. The intraperitoneal administration of lyophilized cell material from that bloom to 18 mice caused marked hepatic enlargement. The intraperitoneal median lethal dose of the dried bloom was estimated to be 10 mg/kg of body weight. A cyclic peptide toxin purified from the algae seems to be similar structurally to toxins from other characterized hepatotoxic blooms of M aeruginosa.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1415-1420
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican journal of veterinary research
Issue number9
StatePublished - 1987

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Veterinary


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