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April 21, 1945

Current Comment

JAMA. 1945;127(16):1057-1058. doi:10.1001/jama.1945.02860160033011

CHRONIC TOXICITY OF ERGOT  The chief source of ergot is rye infested with ergot ascospores. A cold wet season prolongs the period of infestation but reduces the yield of grain. The most recent extensive human epidemic of ergotism occurred in Russia after the cold wet summer of 1926. A mild epidemic occurred in Manchester, England, in 1928. Epidemics have not occurred in the United States. The clinical symptoms of ergotism are correlated with the amount present in the rye. Ergotism appeared whenever as much as 1 per cent was present in the rye; 7 per cent of ergot caused fatal poisoning. In addition to ergot other factors seem to be concerned in the production of ergotism. Animal experiments, though not conclusive, indicate that vitamin A deficiency increases the severity of the convulsive form of ergotism. In spite of early and great attention to the use of ergot medicinally, there has