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Wild Birds of Declining European Species Are Dying from a Thiamine Deficiency Syndrome

Lennart Balk, Per-Åke Hägerroth, Gun Åkerman, Marsha Hanson, Ulla Tjärnlund, Tomas Hansson, Gunnar Thor Hallgrimsson, Yngve Zebühr, Dag Broman, Torsten Mörner, Henrik Sundberg and John E. Halver
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Vol. 106, No. 29 (Jul. 21, 2009), pp. 12001-12006
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40484072
Page Count: 6
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Wild Birds of Declining European Species Are Dying from a Thiamine Deficiency Syndrome
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Abstract

Wild birds of several species are dying in large numbers from an idiopathic paralytic disease in the Baltic Sea area. Here, we demonstrate strong relationships between this disease, breeding failure, and thiamine (vitamin B₁) deficiency in eggs, pulli, and full-grown individuals. Thiamine is essential for vertebrates, and its diphosphorylated form functions as a cofactor for several life sustaining enzymes, whereas the triphosphorylated form is necessary for the functioning of neuronal membranes. Paralyzed individuals were remedied by thiamine treatment. Moreover, thiamine deficiency and detrimental effects on thiamine-dependent enzymes were demonstrated in the yolk, liver, and brain. We propose that the mortality and breeding failure are part of a thiamine deficiency syndrome, which may have contributed significantly to declines in many bird populations during the last decades.

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