It was May of 1960 when turkeys in England started dying of a mysterious disease. By August, over 100,000 were dead — in some places, the mortality rate was 100%. Although pheasants and ducklings were also susceptible, turkey populations seemed most vulnerable, and so the plague got the name Turkey X Disease.
Fun fact! Aflatoxin isn’t inherently dangerous, in and of it itself. The compound has to first be activated by enzymes in your liver before it has carcinogenic action, resulting in inter-individual differences in susceptibility. Also, because the active compound is made in the liver, that’s where it does the most damage, aka liver damage and liver cancer. Aflatoxin B1 in particular is the most dangerous to humans, and if I recall correctly may be because it is more easily activated by human enzymes.
In the 1930s, it was generally accepted that the body needed sodium to function, but no one had studied what broke down when the sodium in a person’s diet was removed. One researcher researcher and four volunteers decided to find out. It was awful.