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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2016

Widespread episodic thiamine deficiency in Northern Hemisphere wildlife

Balk, Lennart; Karlsson, Simon; Strömquist, Jennie; Börjeson, Hans; Hansson, Tomas


Many wildlife populations are declining at rates higher than can be explained by known threats to biodiversity. Recently, thiamine (vitamin B-1) deficiency has emerged as a possible contributing cause. Here, thiamine status was systematically investigated in three animal classes: bivalves, ray-finned fishes, and birds. Thiamine diphosphate is required as a cofactor in at least five life-sustaining enzymes that are required for basic cellular metabolism. Analysis of different phosphorylated forms of thiamine, as well as of activities and amount of holoenzyme and apoenzyme forms of thiaminedependent enzymes, revealed episodically occurring thiamine deficiency in all three animal classes. These biochemical effects were also linked to secondary effects on growth, condition, liver size, blood chemistry and composition, histopathology, swimming behaviour and endurance, parasite infestation, and reproduction. It is unlikely that the thiamine deficiency is caused by impaired phosphorylation within the cells. Rather, the results point towards insufficient amounts of thiamine in the food. By investigating a large geographic area, by extending the focus from lethal to sublethal thiamine deficiency, and by linking biochemical alterations to secondary effects, we demonstrate that the problem of thiamine deficiency is considerably more widespread and severe than previously reported.


Thiamine; Anguilla; eel; salmon; herring; eider; Mytilus

Published in

Scientific Reports
2016, volume: 6, article number: 38821

Authors' information

Balk, Lennart
Stockholm University
Karlsson, Simon
Karlstad University
Karlsson, Simon
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Aquatic Resources
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Aquatic Resources
Börjeson, Hans
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Aquatic Resources
Hansson, Tomas
Stockholm University

Associated SLU-program

Coastal and sea areas
Lakes and watercourses

Sustainable Development Goals

SDG15 Life on land

UKÄ Subject classification

Environmental Sciences
Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Publication Identifiers


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