Research evidence

Alkaloids are active bioagents in animal tissues. There is clear scientific evidence of this. Crawford and Kocan454 have tested the toxicity of steroidal alkaloids from the potato (Solanum tuberosum), such as a-chaconine, a-solanine, solanidine and solasodine, and Veratrum alkaloid, jervine on fish. The results of Crawford and Kocan's research proved that rainbow trout exhibited a toxic response to chaconine, solasidine and solanine, while medaka only did so to chaconine and solanine. Embryo mortality was observed as an effect of toxicity in both species. Many other alkaloids are known to disturb or cause disorder in animal reproductive systems. For example, gossypol from cotton-seed oil is known as a clear reducer of spermatogenesis and premature abortion of the embryo.

Schneider et al.455 have studied ergot alkaloid toxicity in cattle. The observed symptoms of the toxicity were hyperthermia, loss in milk production, loss of body mass and reduced fertility. The toxicity symptoms were affected by ergotamine, ergosine, ergocornine and ergocryptine. These ergot alkaloids caused gangrenous necrosis of extremities in young cattle. Their impact on livestock production is realized in significant financial losses each year460.

Piperidine alkaloids such as coniine and (—)-coniceine are very poisonous. They occur in hemlock (Conium maculatum L.), known as a very toxic plant. One of the characteristics of these piperidine alkaloids is smell. Moreover, they are neurotoxins which have acute effects such as chronic toxicity.

There are known cases of death by respiratory failure resulting from coniine alkaloids. Pregnant cattle habitually ingesting amounts of plants with these alkaloids, for example from hay, gave birth to deformed offspring461. Rabbits have reportedly experienced toxic effects462. The classic toxic symptoms of coniine alkaloids range from paralysis, muscular tremors, muscle weakness and respiratory failure preceding death461. It is not difficult to observe that the bioactivity of coniine alkaloids and especially their symptoms are similar to these of curare461 or of nicotine463. Piva et al.456 have studied the toxicities of pyrrolidine and tropane alkaloids. In this research a synthetic scopolamine and hyoscyamine mixture in different concentrations was used on test pigs. Toxicity was observed in the gastrointestinal tracts, where the mucous membrane showed lymphocytic infiltration and a loss of epithelium. The villi were necrotic. It was also observed that the high levels of alkaloids increased the blood concentration of total lipids, cholesterol and increased concentrations of urea and uric acid in the blood. Moreover, some alkaloids can inhibit digestive enzymes. Such kinds of alkaloids are, for example, swansonine or castanospermine.

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