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Acute or chronic intoxication resulting from ingestion of grain infected with ergot fungus, or from chronic use of drugs containing ergot.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



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.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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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.
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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.
Fungal exposures have been documented to cause allergic diseases (e.g., allergic rhinitis and asthma, hypersensitivity pneumonitis), toxicoses (e.g., aflatoxicoses, ergotism), irritation (e.g., mucous membrane or skin irritation), and infections (e.g., histoplamosis, blastomycosis) (13-17) and have been blamed for nonspecific building-related symptoms (BRSs) (4,18).
Cases of ergotism -- poisoning produced by a fungus affecting rye and other cereals -- were frequent.
More obvious problems include ergotism, caused by the alkaloids produced by the fungus Claviceps purpurea.
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.
(37-39) Studies on intra-arterial(for ergotism patients (40-43) and intracarotid (for measurements of cerebral blood flow)were conducted on dogs, (44) cats (45) and then on normal human beings who were subjected to DSA for other reasons.