Name of Pathogen: Claviceps purpurea
Body System affected: Lymphatic/Immune sytstem, Digestive, Circulatory Bacterial Morphology: They are fungi that resemble small mushrooms in which the perithecia are embedded in the capitate tip.
Reservoir: grains (specifically rye) and grass contaminated with ergot
Mode of Transmission: Ingestion
Symptoms of Illness: Symptoms include constriction of arteries and veins, rapid, weak pulse, precordial distress or pain muscle pain, weakness, lameness, gangrene, Headaches, dizziness, depression, confusion, drowsiness, unconsciousness, panic, hallucinations, delusions and psychosis.
At Risk Population: Anyone that has ingested plant material containing ergot alkaloid
Morbidity: Ergotism is extremely rare today, primarily because the normal grain cleaning and milling processes remove most of the ergot so that only very low levels of alkaloids remain in the resultant flours. In addition, the alkaloids that are the causative agents of ergotism are relatively labile and are usually destroyed during baking and cooking.
Pathogenesis: Ergot causes vasoconstriction by direct action on the muscles of the arterioles, and repeated dosages injure the vascular endothelium. These actions initially reduce blood flow and eventually lead to complete stasis with terminal necrosis of the extremities due to thrombosis. A cold environment predisposes the extremities to gangrene. In addition, ergot has a potent oxytocic action and also causes stimulation of the CNS, followed by depression. Ergot alkaloids inhibit pituitary release of prolactin in many mammalian species, with failure of both mammary development in late gestation and delayed initiation of milk secretion, resulting in agalactia at parturition
Prevention/Control: Rotate cereals and grasses with nonsusceptible crops for one year or longer. The ergot sclerotia usually do not survive in the soil for more than one year. Therefore, summer fallow or...
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