Diclofenac, a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), kills vultures (Gyps spp.) that consume tainted carcasses. As a result, vulture populations in India, Nepal, and Pakistan have been devastated. Studies on meloxicam and ketoprofen demonstrated that the toxicity of the NSAIDs is unpredictable, thereby necessitating individual testing of all available NSAIDs. Because it is no longer practical to use vultures for toxicity testing, we evaluated the Pied Crow (Corvus albus) as a model. Pied Crows (n=6) were exposed to a dose of 0.8 and 10 mg/kg of diclofenac, with no signs of toxicity, and a rapid half-life of elimination. Using primary renal cell and hepatocyte cultures, a high tolerance was demonstrated at the cellular level. Meta-analysis of pharmacokinetic data for the Domestic Chicken (Gallus gallus) and the African White-backed (Gyps africanus), Cape Griffon (Gyps coprotheres), and Turkey Vultures (Cathartes aura) showed a trend toward toxicity when the half-life of elimination increased. We conclude that the crow is not susceptible to diclofenac and, more important, that toxicity in the Gyps species is probably related to zero-order metabolism.
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Vol. 47 • No. 4