Twenty-eight lactating dairy cattle in New York State were exposed to botulism toxin; 12 died and 16 recovered but never returned to full productivity. Pieces of a raccoon carcass were found in the total mixed ration on the first day of the outbreak. Clinical signs included anorexia, decreased milk production, decreased tongue tone, profound weakness, and recumbency. Clostridium botulinum type A (BoNT/A) was detected in rumen contents from 2 deceased cows via matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry (MALDI-TOF MS). In addition, C. botulinum type C was cultured from the liver of a third cow, and C. botulinum neurotoxin-producing type C gene (bont/C) was detected via real-time PCR. On postmortem examination, 4 cows had findings suggestive of toxic myopathy, but the cause and significance of these lesions is unknown given that botulism is typically not associated with gross or histologic lesions. This outbreak of BoNT/A in cattle in North America was diagnosed via MALDI-TOF MS, a rapid and sensitive modality for detection of botulinum preformed neurotoxin.
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