Bovis ISSN 2398-2993

Mycotoxic lupinosis

Synonym(s): phomopsins

Contributor(s): Tiffany Blackett , Michael Reynolds

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  • There are potentially two different types of toxin exposure associated with Lupinus species:
    • Direct lupine plant poisoning (lupine poisoning) as a result of the toxic alkaloids in bitter lupine plants.
    • Lupinosis – this is a mycotoxic condition caused by the ingestion of lupines contaminated by a specific type of fungus.  This condition is largely associated with the use of sweet lupines as fodder, and is not due to the alkaloid toxins in the plant.
This article only refers to lupinosis and not alkaloid poisoning from lupine plants.
  • Cause: lupinosis is caused by mycotoxins that cause liver damage.
  • Signs:
    • Photosensitisation may occur.
    • Abortion in late gestation and ketosis due to inappetance have been linked to lupinosis in cattle.
    • Deaths can occur.
    • Acute/subacute: jaundice, inappetance, enlarged liver.
    • Chronic: fibrotic liver.
  • Diagnosis: observation of fungal contamination of lupine material, testing for the presence of mycotoxins and history of cattle exposure.
  • Treatment: supportive care and removal from the source of contaminated lupine material.
  • Prognosis: recovery is expected in animals that maintain or re-establish their appetite. 



  • Diaporthe toxica (previously called Phomopsis leptostromiformis) can infect lupines [image].
  • Both sweet and bitter lupines can become contaminated by this fungus.
  • The fungus can grow on dead lupines, including lupine stubble.
  • Black discoloration of the stems or pods may suggest infection of lupines with the fungus. 
  • Lupinosis is caused by mycotoxins produced by the fungus Diaporthe toxica on lupine plants.
  • Once the Diaporthe toxica mycotoxins have been produced, the lupine material can remain toxic for a long period of time.

Predisposing factors


  • Diaporthe toxica infection of the lupine plant.
  • Specific climatic conditions (eg environmental temperature, the level of rain and humidity, etc) can favour mycotoxin production by the fungus.
  • Livestock grazing lupine stubble are vulnerable to developing lupinosis.


  • The animal’s pregnancy status.


  • The toxins produced by the fungus Diaporthe toxica on lupine material are hexapeptide mycotoxins (eg phomopsin A).
  • Phomopsin toxins cause cell damage. They predominantly affect the liver causing liver damage, but can also adversely affect other organs such as the kidneys, adrenal glands and pancreas.
  • Mycotoxin production on infected lupine material is affected by environmental conditions. For example, the risk of lupinosis is greater when there is wet weather.
  • The Diaporthe toxica fungus only seems to produce the mycotoxin once the lupine plant has died.


  • Acute, subacute or chronic lupinosis may occur, governed by the amount of mycotoxin ingested and over what timeframe.
  • If Diaporthe toxica contaminated lupine stubble containing large amount of mycotoxins is eaten, clinical signs of lupinosis may be seen a few days later. However, if the mycotoxins are present in small quantities, lupinosis may take several weeks to develop.


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Further Reading


Refereed Papers

  • References from PubMed.
  • Payne J & Murphy A (2014) Plant poisoning in farm animalsIn Practice 36, pp 455-465.
  • ESFA (2012) Scientific Opinion on the risks for animal and public health related to the presence of phomopsins in feed and food. EFSA Journal 10 (2), pp 2567.
  • Scimeca J M & Oehme F W (1985) Postmortem guide to common poisonous plants of livestockVet Hum Toxicology 27 (3) pp 189-199.

Other sources of information

  • Cowley R & Casburn G (2013) Reducing the risk of lupinosis and the incidence of phomopsis. Department of Primary Industries, New South Wales Government [online] Available at:
  • Dauncey E A (2010) Lupinus. In: Poisonous plants - a guide for parents and childcare providers.  Royal Botanic Gardens, UK pp 122.
  • Holder T (2009) Lupine toxicity. In: Blackwell’s Five-minute veterinary consult: Ruminant. Ed: Haskell S R R. Wiley-Blackwell. pp 492-493.
  • Allen J (2004) Phomopsins. In: Clinical veterinary toxicology. Ed: Plumlee, K H.Mosby Inc. pp 259-262.
  • Cooper M R, Johnson A W & Dauncey E A (2003) Lupin - Lupinus species. In: Poisonous plants and fungi: an illustrated guide. 2nd Edn. The Stationary Office. pp 75-76.
  • ACAF (2000) The use of sweet lupins in animal feed – agenda item. Advisory committee on animal feedingstuffs (ACAF). Fifth ACAF meeting, London, 27th June 2000. [online] Available at:
  • Cooper M R & Johnson A W (1998) Lupinus species – Lupins. In: Poisonous plants and fungi in Britain: animal and human poisonings. 1st Edn. The Stationary Office. pp 137-138.
  • Allen J G, Wood P McR, Croker K P, Cowling W A & Sawkins DN (1985) The prevention of lupinosis in sheep. In: Plant toxicology. Eds: Seawright AA, Hegarty M P, Jones L F & Keeler R F.  Queensland Poisonous Plants Committee. pp 80-87.


  • Tiffany Blackett. Veterinary Poisons Information Service (VPIS), London. UK.