Detecting Aflatoxicosis in Broilers in the Evaluation of Clay-based, Toxin-binding Feed Additives



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The objectives of this research were to evaluate common biological measures of aflatoxicosis in broilers (such as growth rate and relative organ weights) along with variables such as hepatic gene expression and aflatoxin residues in the liver, pursuant to identifying a more sensitive biological assay that will allow researchers to conduct three-week broiler trials at aflatoxin concentrations <1000 ppb, prior to significant changes in the growth rate or relative organ weights. This will help us both better understand how aflatoxicosis presents in broilers, as well as help us evaluate the efficacy of clay-based binders for their ability to ameliorate aflatoxicosis under experimental conditions.

In the first study, a recently mined calcium bentonite clay (TX4) was evaluated against Novasil?. Both clays appeared able to sequester aflatoxin, and overall TX4 appeared capable of ameliorating aflatoxicosis comparable to Novasil?.

In the second study, growth and relative organ weight data were compared with the gene expression of hepatic enzymes known to detoxify aflatoxin B1 in broilers that had consumed a wide range of aflatoxin concentrations. When gene expression data from liver samples were analyzed, the genotypic effect of aflatoxin on the CYP1A1 and CYP2H1 isoforms simply mirrored the phenotypic effects seen in the growth and relative organ weights, suggesting that this variable was not any more sensitive than the more traditional ones. The third study evaluated the TX4 clay when in diets containing <1000 ppb aflatoxin. Although weight gain was unaffected by aflatoxin at these lower levels (after three weeks on treatment diets, body weights between the 0 ppb treatment and the 700 ppb treatment only varied by 4%), there were negative effects on feed conversion and productivity index and there was an increase in the relative weights of the liver and kidney. The inclusion of TX4 to the treatment diets did not offer any amelioration from the main effects of aflatoxin.

Finally, a study was conducted to evaluate the effects of TX4 clay when using residues of aflatoxin B1 in the liver as the primary variable of interest. Results after one week on treatment diets showed that TX4 was effective at reducing the accumulation of aflatoxin B1 residues in liver. However, after the first week, liver residue data were not any more sensitive in evaluating aflatoxin or clay effects when compared to the ?traditional? measures of growth performance and organ weights. Also, these results indicate that the clearance time required to remove aflatoxin residues from the liver is less than one week on a clean corn diet.

Based on these evaluations, attempts to characterize a more sensitive, sentinel-type response to aflatoxin exposure in broilers were not any more successful at evaluating aflatoxicosis than was the common bioassay measures such as growth rate and relative organ weights. These studies (by contaminating corn with aflatoxigenic species of Aspergillus) were able to find significant main effects for aflatoxin at lower concentrations (?1000 ppb) than had been previously reported by the studies that included inoculated rice.