AboutZoos, Since 2008


Vet­eri­nary drug keto­pro­fen now proves to be toxic for Gyps vul­ture species

pub­lished 24 Decem­ber 2010 | mod­i­fied 13 May 2010

The safety test­ing (Naidoo et al., 2009) of keto­pro­fen, which was not reported to cause mor­tal­ity in clin­i­cal treat­ment of scav­eng­ing birds, now proves to be toxic for Gyps vul­tures after feed­ing on tis­sue from cat­tle dosed with ketoprofen.

Three Gyps vul­ture species are on the brink of extinc­tion in South Asia owing to the vet­eri­nary non-​steroidal anti-​inflammatory drug (NSAID) diclofenac, which is the same type of drug as keto­pro­fen. Car­casses of domes­ti­cated ungu­lates are the main food source for Asia’s vul­tures and birds die from kid­ney fail­ure after con­sum­ing diclofenac-​contaminated tis­sues. Safety test­ing of the NSAID keto­pro­fen was under­taken using cap­tive non-​releasable Cape grif­fon vul­tures (Gyps coprotheres) and wild-​caught African white-​backed vul­tures (G. africanus), both pre­vi­ously iden­ti­fied as sus­cep­ti­ble to diclofenac and suit­able sur­ro­gates. The birds were admin­is­trated keto­pro­fen by oral gav­age or through feed­ing tis­sues from cat­tle dosed with keto­pro­fen before slaugh­ter. Mor­tal­i­ties occurred at dose lev­els of 1.5 and 5 mg kg−1 vul­ture body weight (within the range rec­om­mended for clin­i­cal treat­ment) with the same clin­i­cal signs as observed for diclofenac. Sur­veys of live­stock car­casses in India indi­cate that toxic lev­els of resid­ual keto­pro­fen are already present in vul­ture food sup­plies. Con­se­quently, they strongly rec­om­mend that keto­pro­fen is not used for vet­eri­nary treat­ment of live­stock in Asia and in other regions of the world where vul­tures access live­stock car­casses. The only alter­na­tive to diclofenac that should be pro­moted as safe for vul­tures is the NSAID meloxi­cam. (Source: Biol­ogy Let­ters, 23 June 2010)

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