Ergotism


Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical, Wikipedia.

ergotism

[′ər·gə‚tiz·əm]
(medicine)
Acute or chronic intoxication resulting from ingestion of grain infected with ergot fungus, or from chronic use of drugs containing ergot.

Ergotism

 

a poisoning of humans and animals by ergot or ergot medicines. In humans, ergotism causes a variety of somatic, neurological, and mental disorders. Until the 1920’s, epidemics of ergotism occurred as a result of eating bread made from rye contaminated by ergot. The initial symptoms are gastrointestinal disorders, headache, and fatigue. In severe cases, psychoses are observed in a few days, for example, clouding of consciousness (twilight effect, delirium), restlessness, fear, anxiety, and depression. Convulsions are common. Collapse may occur, and gangrene occasionally develops as a result of the constriction of peripheral blood vessels. Neurological symptoms include paresthesia, impairment of reflexes, and difficulty in walking and speaking.

Acute poisoning by ergot medicines is treated by gastric lavage and the administration of calcium chloride as an antidote. Warm baths, sedatives, anticonvulsants, and drugs that stimulate respiration and blood circulation are prescribed.

Animals may contract ergotism after feeding on wild ergotized cereal grasses or on meal, bran, and grain wastes mixed with ergot. The disease is prevalent in the United States, Britain, and New Zealand and occurs sporadically in the USSR. All species of animals, including birds, are susceptible to ergotism. Acute poisoning in horses and sheep involves the central nervous system and digestive tract. Symptoms may include stimulation, depression, salivation, vomiting, diarrhea, ulcerative stomatitis, convulsions, and sometimes abortion. In chronic gangrenous ergotism of cattle and swine, necrotic portions of skin and hoof fall off along with the mane and tail in horses; parts of the comb and wattle fall off in chickens.

Treatment depends on the symptoms. Laxatives, gastric lavage, and enemas are given to remove the poison from the stomach and intestine. Tannin solutions are used to bind the poison in the intestine. Ergotism can be prevented by promptly harvesting grains and cereal grasses before the sclerotia of the fungus matures, cleaning seeds to be planted, and checking the quality of feed.

References in periodicals archive ?
Although he asserts that he personally saw at least one woman who had been miraculously cured of the fire, (12) perhaps as much as two decades passed between some of the events he described and composition of the text, and the text itself includes many stories not directly related to the outbreak of ergotism as the convent church continued to serve as pilgrimage site.
Ergot causes a lowered grain yield and ergotism in people and animals.
Anthony's Fire" was a historical synonym for ergotism, the "purples" was diphtheria, and "patriotic fever" was a nickname for yellow fever.
Schalik's own comments (letter of 2/27/93) are germane: "This latter diagnosis |of Tuberculosis~ is perfectly plausible, though Grmek does indicate even ergotism is possible.
The symptoms of the accusers indicate that they were probably suffering from convulsive ergotism brought on by eating infected rye bread.
SNP as a NO donor has been administered by the arterial route for the treatment of ergotism in human beings (30-33) and for cerebral vasospasm in dogs.
Cases of ergotism -- poisoning produced by a fungus affecting rye and other cereals -- were frequent.
Ergotism was associated with the growth of rye, particularly in cool climates that cannot support wheat, and was implicated in the aberrant human behavior responsible at least in part for the Salem witch trials and St.
Blake's references to corn blighted by ergotism, a fungal disease which caused hallucinations and convulsions among the poor who ate contaminated bread, root his surreal social indictments in economic practice: oppression inspires revolutionary madness.