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Spontaneous photosensitization by Heterophyllaea pustulata Hook. f. (Rubiaceae), in sheep from Northwestern Argentina


Heterophyllaea pustulata Hook. f. (Rubiaceae) is a phototoxic plant. It grows in the Andean area of northwest of Argentina, and it causes significant economic losses in the livestock. This plant induces dermal lesions by photosensitization probably due to its content of photosensitizing anthraquinones. This paper describes an outbreak of poisoning in Corriedale sheepfold, which had an incidence of 49%. Ear skin biopsies and blood samples were collected of six affected animals. Liver enzymes remained within the reference limits. Histopathologically, a deep necrotizing dermatitis was identified in all samples. H. pustulata was identified in the areas of grazing. Anthraquinone concentration in leaves was 0.84% p/p, expressed as rubiadin. All findings allow us to conclude that the diagnosis is a primary photosensitization. Huge regional economic losses could be attributed to H. pustulata poisoning, although its toxicity has been little studied.

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This study was supported by grants from INTA (Instituto Nacional de Tecnología Agropecuaria), Consejo de Investigación de la Universidad Católica de Salta, and PICT 2011/1379 (FONCyT). LRC, SCNM, JLC, and EJG are members of the Research Career of CONICET (Consejo Nacional e Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas).

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Correspondence to J. F. Micheloud.

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Micheloud, J.F., Colque-Caro, L.A., Comini, L.R. et al. Spontaneous photosensitization by Heterophyllaea pustulata Hook. f. (Rubiaceae), in sheep from Northwestern Argentina. Trop Anim Health Prod 49, 1553–1556 (2017).

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  • Poisoning plants
  • Phototoxic
  • Primary photosensitization
  • Dermatitis