Brains from 10 bovine field cases of pushing disease, a nervous disorder caused by the plant, Matricaria nigellifolia, were examined by light microscopy. Moderate to marked encephalitis, characterized by predominantly perivascular microgliosis, perivascular lymphocytic infiltrates and reactive changes in astrocytes, was present in all the brains. The lesion was concentrated in the white matter throughout the forebrain and midbrain. Dried, milled M. nigellifolia was dosed to 6 steers. Clinical signs of pushing disease, which included docility, clumsiness and pushing against objects, appeared abruptly in 5 of the steers after a latent period that varied from 16-44 days. The lowest total dose of plant that proved toxic was 10 g/kg. The length of the latent period appeared to be related inversely to the total dose. Encephalitis, which was similar in nature and distribution to those in the field cases, was demonstrated in the 5 affected steers. The lesion was minimal in the brain of the steer that did not develop pushing disease. The cerebral lesion is sufficiently consistent and distinctive to be useful in establishing a diagnosis of pushing disease. The perivascular distribution of microgliosis suggests that the site of the toxic insult is the cerebral vasculature. Botanical information is presented.
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