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Open Access Polytetrafluoroethylene Toxicosis in Recently Hatched Chickens (Gallus domesticus)

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Two groups of chickens (Gallus domesticus; White Leghorn; age, 4 d and 2 wk) housed in a university research vivarium were found dead or moribund without prior signs of illness. The overall mortality rates were 92.3% (60 of 65 birds) for the 4-d-old birds and 80% (8 of 10) for the 2-wk-old birds. All chicks were housed in brooders with heat lamps in a temperature- and humidity-controlled room. Primary gross findings were mild to moderate dehydration and hepatic lipidosis. The most consistent histologic findings were pulmonary hemorrhage and edema in all 7 of the 4-d-old birds evaluated and in all 4 of the 2-wk-old birds assessed. In addition, 1 of the 4-d-old birds had multifocal centrilobular hepatic necrosis. These findings suggested an inhaled toxicant and hypoxia, respectively. Inspection of the animal room revealed that approximately 50% of the heat lamp bulbs in the brooder cage were coated with polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE). Two published case reports detail similar experiences in birds exposed to PTFE-coated heat-lamp bulbs. Birds are highly sensitive to inhaled toxicants owing to the high efficiency of their respiratory systems, and PTFE toxicosis is known to cause pulmonary edema and hemorrhage in pet birds after exposure to overheated nonstick cookware. In the present case, the bulbs were replaced, and no similar problems subsequently have been noted. This case illustrates the sensitivity of avian species to respiratory toxicants and serves as a reminder that toxicosis can be encountered even in the controlled environment of a laboratory vivarium.

Document Type: Case Report

Affiliations: 1: Unit for Laboratory Animal Medicine, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA. 2: Office of Laboratory Animal Resources, West Virginia University, Morgantown, West Virginia, USA 3: Unit for Laboratory Animal Medicine, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA 4: Unit for Laboratory Animal Medicine, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA

Publication date: February 1, 2012

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  • Comparative Medicine (CM), an international journal of comparative and experimental medicine, is the leading English-language publication in the field and is ranked by the Science Citation Index in the upper third of all scientific journals. The mission of CM is to disseminate high-quality, peer-reviewed information that expands biomedical knowledge and promotes human and animal health through the study of laboratory animal disease, animal models of disease, and basic biologic mechanisms related to disease in people and animals.

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