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Turkey X-disease

Aflatoxins (AF) are a class of mycotoxins, produced by fungal species of the genus Aspergillus (flavus and parasiticus) and Penicillium puberulum, that are often found in the ingredients used to make poultry feed. Foods known to be at a high risk of aflatoxin contamination include corn, cottonseed, peanuts, sorghum, tree nuts, and wheat. There are four main aflatoxins of concern: aflatoxin B1 (AFB1), B2 (AFB2), G1 (AFG1), and G2 (AFG2); AFB1 is the most common and biologically active.
Aflatoxins contaminated in poultry feeds
Crops can become contaminated with aflatoxins while growing in the field, during harvesting, transportation, mixing, or during storage. It grows best at temperatures of 80 to 90°F (26.6 to 32.2°C), and can survive in temperatures as low as 40°F (4.4°C). The mold also requires a high moisture content, and can emerge with 15% moisture content.

Government Regulations for Aflatoxins

The FDA and the EU regulate the amount of aflatoxins present in human food, animal feed, and animal feed ingredients.
  • For chick starter and grower feeds, corn, and peanut products, excluding cottonseed meal: Must contain less than 20 ppb
  • For laying hen feed and other mature poultry: Must contain less than 100 ppb
  • For cottonseed meal intended for all types and ages of poultry: Must contain less than 300 ppb
The adverse effect of aflatoxins depends on the age, species, nutritional status of birds as well as the dose and length of time it was consumed. Aflatoxicosis refers to poisoning from ingestion of aflatoxins in contaminated food or feed. Both acute and chronic aflatoxicosis can occur, however the chronic form is the most prevalent. Chronic aflatoxicosis occurs as a result of prolonged intake of low levels of aflatoxins in the chickens' diet. Resulting adverse affects include:
  • Immunosuppression: Increases susceptibility to secondary infection by opportunistic pathogens.
  • Reduced vaccine effectiveness: Decreases resistance against viral pathogens, increasing the risk of acquiring the disease they are getting vaccinated against.
  • Gastrointestinal tract damage: Causes erosion and roughening of the gizzard lining, resulting in decreased absorption of nutrients, stunted growth, nutrient-deficient related syndromes, and lowered feed conversion.
  • Liver damage: The primary site of toxicity due to aflatoxins is the liver. Exposure causes hepatic lesions and enlargement of the liver as well as fatty liver.
  • Production losses: Decreases egg production and egg quality in laying hens and hatchable eggs in breeding chickens.
Preventative Absorbents
Allium spp (Garlic) extractEl-Barbary MI 2016
Bacillus subtilisZhang L et al., 2016; Jia R et al., 2016; Fan Y et al., 2015; Fan Y et al., 2013
Beer fermentation residue (BFR)Bovo et al., 2015
Bentonite clayDos Anjos, F. R., et al, 2015; Fowler, J., Li, W., & Bailey, C. (2015)
Berevibacillus laterosporusBagherzadeh K et al., 2012
Cactus cladode extract (CCE)Brahmi D et al., 2011
Cellulosimicrobium funkeiLiu J et al., 2016; Sun LH et al., 2015
Citrus fruit oilKumar DS et al., 2015
Curcuma longa (Tumeric) extractDos Anjos, F. R., et al, 2015
Hydrated sodium calcium aluminosilcateChen, X., Horn, N., & Applegate, T. J. (2014)
LactobacillusMonson MS et al., 2015; Rawal S et al., 2014
Natural honeyYaman T et al., 2016
Neutral electrolyzed oxidizing water (NEW)Jardon-Xicotencatl S et al., 2015
Nigella sativa (Black cumin)Khan SH et al., 2013; Aydin R et al., 2008
ResveratrolSridhar M et al., 2015
Rosmarinus officinalisManafi et al., 2014
Saccharomyces cerevisiae (Yeast Extract)Abadeen, Zain Ul, et al.
SeleniumChen et al., 2014
Silybum marianum (milk thistle) seedsMalekinejad, Pouyan, et al. (2015)

Clinical Signs

Loss in appetite
Undigested feed in droppings
Stunted growth
Weight loss
Increased susceptibility to bruising and heat stress
Sudden death with head drawn back and feet stretched out behind
Decreased egg production
Reduced egg size
Increased feather pecking behavior
Poor feather growth


  • History
  • Clinical signs
  • Aflatoxin Quantitative ELISA test
  • Aflatoxin rapid screen test


Supportive careIsolate the bird from the flock and place in a safe, comfortable, warm location (your own chicken "intensive care unit") with easy access to water and food. Limit stress. Call your veterinarian.
Remove source of potential toxin source to prevent further illness among other flock members.



  • Supplementing feed with absorbents.
  • Increasing the crude protein content and supplementation of additional levels of riboflavin, pyridoxine, folic acid and choline showed protective effect against aflatoxicosis
  • Antioxidants like BHT and l-napthoflavone, vitamin C and vitamin E offer protection against aflatoxin induced genotoxicity in in vitro studies



Scientific References

Risk Factors

  • Environmental stresses (drought, prolonged rain, etc.)
  • Feeding insect infested poultry feed or feedstuff to birds
  • Feeding the flock poultry feed or feedstuff that is over 2 to 3 weeks old
  • Improperly storing feed and feedstuff, so that it is not protected from moisture
  • Purchasing low quality feed