Cyanobacterial poisoning in livestock, wild mammals and birds – an overview

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Abstract

Poisoning of livestock by toxic cyanobacteria was first reported in the 19th century, and throughout the 20th century cyanobacteria–related poisonings of livestock and wildlife in all continents have been described. Some mass mortality events involving unrelated fauna in prehistoric times have also been attributed to cyanotoxin poisoning; if correct, this serves as a reminder that toxic cyanobacteria blooms predate anthropogenic manipulation of the environment, though there is probably general agreement that human intervention has led to increases in the frequency and extent of cyanobacteria blooms. Many of the early reports of cyanobacteria poisoning were anecdotal and circumstantial, albeit with good descriptions of the appearance and behaviour of cyanobacteria blooms that preceded or coincided with illness and death in exposed animals. Early necropsy findings of hepatotoxicity were subsequently confirmed by experimental investigations. More recent reports supplement clinical and post–mortem findings with investigative chemistry techniques to identify cyanotoxins in stomach contents and tissue fluids.