Field outbreaks of a syndrome of unknown aetiology associated with the grazing of green oats (Avena sativa) in the south-western Cape Province were characterized by diarrhoea, photosensitivity and death in goats and by diarrhoea and a reduction in milk production in cows. A phytopathogenic fungus, Drechslera campanulata, was isolated from conspicuous reddish-brown leaf spots on oat plants collected from both outbreaks.
Pure cultures on autoclaved maize of D. campanulata isolates from oat leaves implicated in both field outbreaks, as well as a Canadian isolate, proved to be highly toxic to ducklings, goats and sheep. Characteristic clinical signs of the fatal mycotoxicosis caused by D. campanulata culture material in goats and sheep were anorexia, apathy, diarrhoea and ruminal stasis. Photosensitivity, however, was not induced. Necrosis of the forestomach mucosa was the most characteristic gross pathological change. Histopathological findings included mild focal erosions to severe, diffuse, coagulative necrosis of the mucosa in the rumen, reticulum and omasum and congestion and haemorrhages in the abomasum. These results provide circumstantial evidence that green oat leaves infected by D. campanulata may cause outbreaks of a mycotoxicosis in grazing animals.
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