Toxigenic Fungi And Fungal Mycotoxins In Food

Sourav Bio

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Growth of prevalent filamentous fungi in foods may result in the production of mycotoxins, which can cause a variety of adverse effects in humans, including allergic reactions, immunosuppression, and cancer. Mycotoxins aflatoxins, ochratoxin A, fumonisins, tnchothecenes, and zearalenone are the most significant. Aflatoxins are potent carcinogens and, in conjunction with the hepatitis B virus, are responsible for tens of thousands of human fatalities annually, primarily in tropical non-industrialized nations.

Ochratoxin A is a likely carcinogen and may induce cancer of the urinary tract and kidney damage in northern and eastern Europeans. Fumonisins are believed to be the cause of oesophageal cancer in southern Africa, sections of China, and other locations. Trichothecenes are extremely immunosuppressive, whereas zearalenone has oestrogenic effects on both animals and humans.

Current records and statistics do not reflect the significant role played by mycotoxins in deaths caused by foodborne microorganisms. Mycotoxins, which are produced by fungi commonly found in foods and animal supplies, have only become apparent in the past 30 years. Throughout history, these toxins have caused significant epidemics among humans and animals.


Ergotism, which killed hundreds of thousands of people in Europe in the last millennium1 ; alimentary toxic aleukia (ATA), which killed at least 100,000 Russians between 1942 and 19482 ; stachybotryotoxicosis, which killed tens of thousands of horses in the Soviet Union in the 1930 ; and aflatoxicosis, which killed 100,000 young turkeys in the United Kingdom in 1960 and has caused death and disease in other animals, arachnid

What are toxigenic fungi?

  • Toxigenic fungi are fungi with the capacity to produce mycotoxins, which are toxic compounds. These mycotoxins pose a threat to human and animal health if ingested, inhaled, or absorbed through the epidermis. Mycotoxins are secondary metabolites generated as a defense mechanism or to compete with other microorganisms by certain species of fungi.
  • Toxic fungi are capable of contaminating agricultural commodities, stored foods, and indoor environments. They can thrive on a variety of organic substances, including cereals, nuts, fruits, vegetables, and even building materials. Toxigenic fungi from the genera Aspergillus, Penicillium, Fusarium, and Alternaria are widespread.
  • Mycotoxins produced by toxigenic fungi can cause a variety of adverse health effects, depending on the specific mycotoxin, the level and duration of exposure, and the type of mycotoxin. Common symptoms of mycotoxin exposure include respiratory issues, allergic reactions, skin irritation, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and in extreme cases organ damage or mortality.
  • Preventing and controlling the growth of toxigenic fungi requires the proper storage and handling of food and agricultural products, the maintenance of good indoor air quality and ventilation, and the prompt resolution of any water leakage or excessive moisture problems that could promote fungal growth. In addition to regular building inspections and maintenance, appropriate sanitation practices can help reduce the risk of toxigenic fungal contamination.

What are Fungal Mycotoxins?

Fungal mycotoxins are toxic compounds produced by certain species of fungi. These toxins can contaminate various agricultural commodities, including crops, grains, nuts, and fruits, as well as stored food products. Consumption of mycotoxin-contaminated foods can lead to various adverse health effects in humans and animals.

Here are some key points about fungal mycotoxins:

  1. Types of mycotoxins: There are several types of mycotoxins produced by different fungi. Some common mycotoxins include aflatoxins, ochratoxin A, fumonisins, deoxynivalenol (DON), zearalenone, and patulin.
  2. Aflatoxins: Aflatoxins are produced mainly by Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus parasiticus fungi. They are potent carcinogens and can affect the liver, causing liver cancer and other health problems.
  3. Ochratoxin A: Ochratoxin A is produced by several fungi, including Aspergillus and Penicillium species. It can contaminate various food commodities, such as cereals, coffee, wine, and dried fruits. Ochratoxin A is associated with kidney damage and has been classified as a possible human carcinogen.
  4. Fumonisins: Fumonisins are produced by Fusarium fungi and commonly contaminate maize (corn) and other grains. They can cause various health issues, including neural tube defects, esophageal cancer, and liver damage in animals.
  5. Deoxynivalenol (DON): DON, also known as vomitoxin, is produced by Fusarium fungi and primarily affects cereals, such as wheat, barley, and corn. It can cause gastrointestinal disturbances, immunosuppression, and other adverse effects in humans and animals.
  6. Zearalenone: Zearalenone is produced by Fusarium fungi and can contaminate cereals and other crops. It exhibits estrogenic activity and can cause reproductive problems, particularly in pigs and other livestock.
  7. Patulin: Patulin is produced by certain molds, including Penicillium and Aspergillus species. It is commonly found in apples and apple products. Patulin has been associated with gastrointestinal issues and potential genotoxic and carcinogenic effects.

Regulatory agencies worldwide, such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) in Europe, have established maximum allowable limits for mycotoxin levels in food products to ensure consumer safety. Various strategies, including good agricultural practices, proper storage, and mycotoxin testing, are employed to minimize mycotoxin contamination in the food supply chain.

Fungal Mycotoxins Epidemiology (Mycotoxicoses)

Mycotoxicoses refer to the diseases or illnesses caused by the consumption of food or feed contaminated with fungal mycotoxins. The epidemiology of mycotoxicoses involves the study of the occurrence, distribution, and determinants of these diseases in populations.

Here are some key points about the epidemiology of mycotoxicoses:

  1. Global prevalence: Mycotoxicoses are prevalent worldwide and can be found in both developed and developing countries. The prevalence varies based on variables such as climate, agricultural practises, food storage conditions, and dietary preferences.
  2. High-risk populations: Certain populations are disproportionately susceptible to mycotoxicoses. This includes people who rely significantly on staple crops, such as maize, wheat, rice, and peanuts, for their nutrition. Inadequate storage facilities and subpar agricultural practises may contribute to an increase in mycotoxin contamination in these areas.
  3. Acute and chronic exposure: Mycotoxicoses may be caused by both acute and chronic mycotoxin exposure. Acute cases typically occur when an individual consumes a large amount of mycotoxins in a brief amount of time, causing immediate symptoms. Chronic cases develop when individuals are repeatedly exposed to low levels of mycotoxins, resulting in long-term health effects.
  4. Regional variations: The prevalence of particular mycotoxins and associated mycotoxicoses can differ by region. For example, aflatoxins are more prevalent in tropical and subtropical regions, whereas ochratoxin is more prevalent in temperate regions. A contamination is more prevalent in temperate regions. Each region’s fungi and agricultural practises influence this variation.
  5. Health effects: Mycotoxicoses can have a variety of health effects, depending on the mycotoxin involved, the intensity of exposure, and the duration of exposure. These effects may include acute symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhoea, as well as long-term effects such as liver and kidney injury, immune suppression, developmental abnormalities, and an increased risk of cancer.
  6. Surveillance and prevention: Monitoring mycotoxin levels in food products and detecting outbreaks of mycotoxicoses rely heavily on surveillance programmes. National and international organisations work to establish mycotoxin regulations, guidelines, and standards for food and animal feed. Good agricultural practises, effective storage and processing methods, and mycotoxin testing at various phases of the food supply chain comprise the prevention strategies.
  7. Research and awareness: Ongoing research is conducted to better comprehend the epidemiology of mycotoxicoses and to develop effective prevention and control measures. Public health education and awareness programmes are also essential for educating individuals, farmers, and food industry professionals about the dangers of mycotoxin contamination and appropriate food handling procedures.

Clinical manifestations of Mycotoxins

Depending on the variety of mycotoxin and the level of exposure, the clinical manifestations of mycotoxicosis vary. In general, mycotoxicosis can induce the following symptoms:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle aches
  • Jaundice
  • Liver damage
  • Kidney damage
  • Cancer

Mycotoxicosis can sometimes be fatal. The severity of symptoms and the risk of death are dependent on the type of mycotoxin, the quantity of exposure, and the health status of the individual.

Here are some of the most frequent clinical manifestations of mycotoxins:

  • Aflatoxins: Aflatoxins can result in liver damage, cancer, and mortality. Aflatoxicosis can manifest with jaundice, vomiting, diarrhoea, fever, and headache.
  • Ochratoxin A: Ochratoxin A can cause cancer and kidney injury. ochratoxicosis can manifest with kidney failure, diarrhoea, and vomiting.
  • Fumonisins: Fumonisins can cause esophageal cancer, immune suppression, and neurological disorders. Fumonisin poisoning can manifest as esophageal malignancy, weight loss, and neurological issues.
  • Trichothecenes: Trichothecenes can cause vomiting, diarrhoea, fever, as well as skin, lung, and immune system injury. Symptoms of trichothecene poisoning include vomiting, diarrhoea, fever, dermatitis, and respiratory issues.
  • Zearalenone: Zearalenone is an estrogenic toxin that can induce reproductive difficulties in both humans and animals. Menstrual irregularities, weight gain, and breast enlargement are among the symptoms of zearalenone poisoning.

Here are some common clinical manifestations associated with mycotoxin exposure:

  • Respiratory Symptoms: Inhaling airborne mycotoxins or fungal particles can result in respiratory symptoms including coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, nasal congestion, and throat irritation. People with respiratory conditions such as asthma may experience a worsening of their symptoms.
  • Allergic Reactions: Certain mycotoxins, including those produced by Aspergillus species, can cause allergic reactions in susceptible individuals. These reactions may manifest as hives, itching, watery eyes, wheezing, and asthma-like symptoms.
  • Gastrointestinal Issues: Ingestion of foods or beverages contaminated with mycotoxins can result in a variety of gastrointestinal issues. In severe cases, symptoms may include abdominal pain, diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting, and gastrointestinal haemorrhage.
  • Neurological Effects: Certain mycotoxins possess neurotoxic properties and can influence the central nervous system. In some instances, mycotoxin exposure can cause neurological symptoms such as headache, vertigo, fatigue, confusion, memory loss, difficulty concentrating, and even convulsions.
  • Immune System Suppression: Suppression of the Immune System: Prolonged exposure to certain mycotoxins, such as aflatoxins, can suppress the immune system, making individuals more susceptible to infections and other diseases. This can manifest in the form of frequent or severe infections, chronic fatigue, and general malaise.
  • Skin Disorders: When they come into direct contact with the epidermis, certain mycotoxins can cause skin disorders. Among these are rashes, dermatitis, irritation, stinging, and redness.
  • Liver Damage: Aflatoxins, which are produced by the fungus Aspergillus, are hepatotoxic, meaning they can induce liver damage. A prolonged exposure to high concentrations of aflatoxins can result in liver dysfunction, hepatitis, liver cancer, and other liver-related diseases.
  • Carcinogenic Effects: Certain mycotoxins, such as aflatoxins and ochratoxin A, have been categorised as carcinogens, which means they have the potential to cause cancer. The risk of developing liver, lung, and other forms of cancer increases with prolonged exposure to these mycotoxins, primarily through contaminated food.

Toxigenic fungi

Toxigenic fungi belong to various fungal genera, with some of the most notable ones being:

  • Aspergillus: This genus contains the species Aspergillus flavus, Aspergillus parasiticus, and Aspergillus ochraceus. Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus parasiticus are known to produce aflatoxins, which are powerful carcinogens and can contaminate peanuts, maize and tree nuts. Aspergillus ochraceus generates the mycotoxin ochratoxin A, which is linked to kidney damage.
  • Fusarium: Fusarium species, including Fusarium graminearum, Fusarium culmorum, and Fusarium verticillioides (previously known as Fusarium moniliforme), produce numerous mycotoxins. Deoxynivalenol (DON), zearalenone (ZEN), and fumonisins are examples. Mycotoxins can contaminate cereals such as wheat, maize, and barley, and have been linked to a variety of adverse health effects in humans and animals.
  • Penicillium: Species of Penicillium, such as Penicillium verrucosum and Penicillium expansum, can generate mycotoxins like ochratoxin A, which can contaminate cereals, coffee, and other food products. Some Penicillium species are also responsible for the production of patulin, a mycotoxin found in rotten fruits, especially apples.
  • Alternaria: Alternaria is known to produce mycotoxins, including alternariol and alternariol monomethyl ether. These mycotoxins can contaminate cereals, fruits, and vegetables, among other crops.
  • Claviceps: The fungus Claviceps purpurea generates the mycotoxin ergotamine, which is linked to the human and animal disease ergotism. Fungus-infected cereals, particularly rye, are a common source of ergotamine.
  • Stachybotrys: Stachybotrys chartarum, also known as black mould, is capable of producing mycotoxins known as trichothecenes. Satratoxin, a well-known trichothecene produced by Stachybotrys, has been linked to respiratory symptoms and other adverse human health effects.
  • Trichothecium: Trichothecium species are capable of producing trichothecene mycotoxins, such as trichothecin and verrucarin. These mycotoxins have been discovered in a variety of foods, including grains and fruits.
  • Chaetomium: Chaetomium species, such as Chaetomium globosum, can produce chaetoglobosins, which are mycotoxins. These mycotoxins have been linked to human cell toxicity and may contribute to domestic air quality problems.
  • Fusarium culmorum and Fusarium poae: Fusarium culmorum and Fusarium poae are known to produce the mycotoxin beauvericin. Beauvericin has been associated with numerous toxicological effects and has been identified in cereals, particularly wheat.
  • Acremonium: Acremonium species are capable of producing a variety of mycotoxins, including trichothecenes, fumonisins, and moniliformin. Grains, legumes, and spices have been found to contain these mycotoxins.
  • Myrothecium: Myrothecium species are capable of producing mycotoxins such as roridin and verrucarin. These mycotoxins have been identified in contaminated grains and are toxic to humans and animals.
  • Neosartorya and Aspergillus niger: Neosartorya and Aspergillus niger are known to produce ochratoxin A, which can contaminate a wide range of food products, including cereals, coffee, and preserved fruits.

Transmission of Fungal Mycotoxins

Humans and animals can be exposed to mycotoxins through a variety of routes. Transmission depends on the type of mycotoxin, the contaminated food or feed source, and the routes of exposure. Here are some typical transmission methods:

  • Ingestion: The most prevalent route of mycotoxin exposure is through the consumption of contaminated food or forage. Mycotoxins are capable of contaminating a vast array of agricultural products, including cereals, nuts, fruits, and animal feed. Mycotoxins can be absorbed by the digestive system and enter the bloodstream when these contaminated products are ingested, potentially causing adverse health effects.
  • Inhalation: Certain mycotoxins are capable of becoming airborne and can be found in dust particles or spores. Inhalation of contaminated particles or spores can result in mycotoxin exposure through the respiratory system. Occupational settings, such as agricultural employees handling moldy crops or workers in mold-contaminated environments, are particularly susceptible to this mode of transmission.
  • Dermal Absorption: Certain mycotoxins, including specific varieties of aflatoxins, can be absorbed through the skin. This is a less common mode of transmission than ingestion or inhalation, but it can occur in occupational contexts involving direct contact with mycotoxin-contaminated materials or surfaces.
  • Maternal-Fetal Transfer: In pregnant animals or humans, mycotoxins ingested by the mother can cross the placenta and be conveyed to the fetus, resulting in prenatal exposure. This may have serious health consequences for the maturing fetus.
  • Breast Milk: Mycotoxins can be excreted into breast milk by lactating humans and animals. If the mother has been exposed to mycotoxins through contaminated food or environmental sources, the infant may be exposed through breastfeeding.

Mycotoxins Produced by Toxigenic fungi

  1. Aflatoxins: Aflatoxins are predominantly produced by the fungi Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus parasiticus. Among them are aflatoxin B1, B2, G1, G2, M1 and M2. Aflatoxins are potent carcinogens and have been linked to liver cancer, immune suppression, and other health problems. Typically, they contaminate peanuts, sorghum, cottonseed, and tree nuts.
  2. Ochratoxin: Several species of fungi, including Aspergillus ochraceus and Penicillium verrucosum, produce ochratoxins, specifically ochratoxin A, B, and C. Ochratoxin compounds are nephrotoxic and can cause kidney injury. They can contaminate cereals, coffee, wine, and preserved fruits, among other food products.
  3. Trichothecenes: Trichothecenes are a type of mycotoxin generated by a variety of fungi, including Fusarium, Myrothecium, and Stachybotrys. Trichothecenes are represented by deoxynivalenol (DON), T-2 toxin, HT-2 toxin, and nivalenol. Trichothecenes can have a variety of toxic effects, such as immunosuppression, gastrointestinal problems, dermatitis, and interference with protein synthesis.
  4. Zearalenone: Fusarium species, such as Fusarium graminearum and Fusarium culmorum, produce zearalenone (ZEN). It has estrogenic properties and can interfere with animal reproduction. ZEN is frequently found in cereals, especially maize.
  5. Fumonisins: Several Fusarium species, including Fusarium verticillioides and Fusarium proliferatum, produce fumonisins. Fumonisins, such as fumonisin B1, B2, and B3, can cause a variety of health problems, such as liver and kidney injury, neurotoxicity, and cancer. They can contaminate maize and products made from maize.
  6. Patulin: Patulin is produced by Penicillium expansum and Penicillium griseofulvum primarily. It is frequently found in mouldy fruits, especially apples, and can cause gastrointestinal irritation and liver injury.
  7. Ergot Alkaloids: Claviceps purpurea, a fungus that infects cereal grains, especially rye, produces ergot alkaloids. Symptoms of ergotism include hallucinations, vasoconstriction, and gangrene. Ergot alkaloids, including ergotamine and ergocristine, can induce ergotism.
  8. Citrinin: Several fungal species, including Penicillium, Aspergillus, and Monascus, produce citrinin. It is capable of contaminating a vast array of food products, including cereals, rice, and fermented goods. Citrinin has been linked to nephrotoxicity and is capable of causing kidney injury.
  9. Patulin: In addition to Penicillium species, certain Aspergillus and Byssochlamys species are also capable of producing patulin. Patulin is commonly found in mouldy fruits, particularly apples and products containing apples. It may possess genotoxic and immunotoxic properties in addition to toxic effects on the gastrointestinal system.
  10. Sterigmatocystin: Aspergillus species, including Aspergillus versicolor and Aspergillus nidulans, produce sterigmatocystin. It has a similar chemical structure to aflatoxins and is found in cereals, nuts, and some seasonings. It is believed that sterigmatocystin has carcinogenic properties, notably in relation to liver cancer.
  11. Penitrem A: Penicillium species, including Penicillium crustosum and Penicillium commune, produce Penitrem A. It is frequently found in mouldy foods, especially cereals and nuts. Penitrem A is a neurotoxin that can cause animals to exhibit tremors, convulsions, and other neurological symptoms.
  12. Zearalenols: Fusarium species also produce zearalenols, which are derivatives of zearalenone. -zearalenol and -zearalenol are among them. Comparable to zearalenone in their estrogenic properties, these mycotoxins can affect the reproductive health of animals.
  13. Aurovertins: Several Aspergillus species, including Aspergillus ochraceus and Aspergillus versicolor, produce aurovertins. They have been detected in cereals, fruits, and dairy products. Aurovertins are capable of inhibiting mitochondrial function and exerting cytotoxic effects.
  14. Penicillic Acid: Penicillium species, including Penicillium camemberti and Penicillium roqueforti, produce penicillic acid. It is frequently detected in contaminated cheese and other dairy products. Nephrotoxicity and genotoxicity have both been linked to penicillic acid.
  15. Rubratoxins: Penicillium rubrum and Penicillium purpurogenum produce rubratoxin. Cereals and grains have been found to contain these mycotoxins.

How Fungal Mycotoxins Cause Infection?

Mycotoxins are primarily responsible for toxic effects rather than infection. They are secondary metabolites produced by specific moulds (fungi) and are toxic to humans and animals when consumed or otherwise exposed. Mycotoxins are not infectious agents; rather, they are chemical compounds with potentially detrimental effects on the body.

How Fungal Mycotoxins Cause Infection?
How Fungal Mycotoxins Cause Infection? | Image Source:

Mycotoxins can be absorbed through the digestive tract and enter the circulation after consumption of mycotoxin-contaminated food or feed. They can then interact with various organs and tissues, causing toxic effects. Depending on the variety of mycotoxin and the target organs or systems affected, the precise mechanisms by which mycotoxins cause harm can vary. Here are some examples of how mycotoxins can cause toxicity:

  • Damage to DNA and Proteins: Certain mycotoxins, including aflatoxins and ochratoxins, can bind to DNA or proteins within cells, causing structural damage or interfering with normal cellular processes. This may result in mutations, cell demise, or cellular function disruption.
  • Inhibition of Enzymes: Certain mycotoxins are capable of inhibiting vital enzymes involved in cellular metabolism or other physiological processes. This disruption of enzyme activity can disrupt normal cellular functions and contribute to toxicity.
  • Oxidative Stress: Mycotoxins can elicit oxidative stress in cells, resulting in an imbalance between the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and the antioxidant defence system of the body. This oxidative stress can cause damage to cellular components, such as lipids, proteins, and DNA, and contribute to inflammation and tissue damage.
  • Immunosuppression: Certain mycotoxins, including deoxynivalenol (DON) and fumonisins, can suppress the immune system, reducing its ability to combat infections and increasing susceptibility to other diseases. This immunosuppressive effect may increase susceptibility to opportunistic infections.
  • Carcinogenesis: Certain mycotoxins, including aflatoxins and some types of ochratoxins, have been classified as carcinogens and have been shown to increase the risk of developing cancer. These mycotoxins can induce DNA mutations, interfere with cellular signalling pathways, and promote the development and progression of tumours.

Notably, the severity of mycotoxin toxicity can vary depending on the type of mycotoxin, the dose and duration of exposure, individual susceptibility, and overall health status. To protect public health and reduce the risk of mycotoxin-related toxicity, regulatory agencies impose maximum mycotoxin levels in food and animal feed.

How Fungal Mycotoxins Cause Infection?
How Fungal Mycotoxins Cause Infection? | Image Source: Stephanie Kraft et al. 2021.

A summary of the mechanisms underlying the exacerbating effects of mycotoxin exposure when the immune system is dysregulated.

(a) Mycotoxins in the pathogenesis of multiple sclerosis: exposure to GTX modifies the blood-brain barrier. Mycotoxins damage astrocytes, oligodendrocytes, and microglia in neural tissue. Loss of oligodendrocytes increases demyelination, while targeted astrocytes release proinflammatory cytokines that contribute to the neuroinflammatory milieu. Induction of proinflammatory gene expression in the CNS is a further direct consequence of mycotoxins. It is hypothesized that indirect pathways involving proinflammatory cytokines such as IL-1β interact with microglia via an increased kynurenine/tryptophan ratio, which promotes the secretion of neurotoxic metabolites.

(b) Exposure to mycotoxins worsens respiratory epithelium barrier impairment in asthmatic conditions. Mycotoxin uptake by dendritic cells results in a decrease in IL-12 production, an increase in ROS production, and an overactivation of the inflammasome. Reduction in IL-12 accentuates the Th1/Th2 imbalance contributing to increased airway inflammation in a mouse model of asthma.

(c) Potential modes of action between mycotoxin exposure and HIV replication: mycotoxin exposure modifies immune response by inducing reactive oxygen species (ROS). ROS inhibits oxidative defense machinery by retaining Nrf2 and inducing proinflammatory response by inducing NF-B. Mycotoxin-related oxidative stress and proinflammatory signals could both potentially contribute to an increase in HIV prevalence and disease progression.

Fungal Mycotoxins Detection Methods

  • Immunoassays: Due to their simplicity, sensitivity, and swift results, immunoassays are widely used for mycotoxin detection. Among the most prevalent immunoassay methods are enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISAs) and lateral flow devices. These techniques rely on antibodies that bond to specific mycotoxins and generate a detectable signal.
  • Chromatographic techniques: Chromatography is a highly sensitive and specific technique for mycotoxin analysis. Common chromatographic techniques include gas chromatography (GC) and liquid chromatography (LC). High-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) and ultra-high-performance liquid chromatography (UHPLC) are subcategories of liquid chromatography (LC). Chromatographic techniques are frequently coupled with a variety of detectors, such as mass spectrometry (MS) or ultraviolet-visible (UV-Vis) spectrophotometry, to improve their detection capabilities.
  • Mass spectrometry: Mass spectrometry is an extremely sensitive and selective technique for identifying and quantifying mycotoxin. To improve the analysis, it can be combined with various separation techniques such as gas chromatography (GC-MS) or liquid chromatography (LC-MS). Mass spectrometry provides precise molecular weight information and can simultaneously detect multiple mycotoxins.
  • Nucleic acid-based methods: To detect specific fungal species or genes responsible for mycotoxin production, polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and other nucleic acid amplification techniques may be utilized. These techniques can provide early detection of fungal contamination and aid in predicting the likelihood of mycotoxin formation.
  • Biosensors: Biosensors are analytical devices that combine biological components like enzymes, antibodies, or microorganisms with physicochemical transducers. They provide rapid, sensitive, and portable mycotoxin detection. Depending on the transducer employed, biosensors can be founded on various principles, such as electrochemical, optical, or piezoelectric.
  • Near-infrared (NIR) spectroscopy: NIR spectroscopy is a nondestructive and rapid technique that can be used for mycotoxin analysis. It relies on the near-infrared absorption of light by chemical bonding in the sample. Statistical models can be devised to predict the presence and concentration of mycotoxins by analyzing spectral data.

Prevention and control measures of mycotoxin in food

  • Good Agricultural Practices (GAP): It is essential to implement appropriate agricultural practices to reduce fungal growth and mycotoxin contamination in crops. This includes the use of certified seeds, crop rotation, monitoring irrigation practices, and effective insect management.
  • Harvesting and Post-Harvest Practices: For the prevention of mycotoxin formation, it is essential to harvest crops at the appropriate time and to ensure adequate drying and storage conditions. To prevent the development of fungi, harvested crops should be dried to an appropriate level of moisture content. Utilize proper storage facilities with adequate ventilation, temperature regulation, and humidity prevention.
  • Integrated Pest Management (IPM): IPM practices can help reduce the use of chemical pesticides and fungal contamination by minimizing the application of chemical pesticides. IPM combines techniques such as crop rotation, biological control agents, and cultural practices to effectively manage pests.
  • Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP): To reduce the risk of mycotoxin contamination, food processing facilities must adhere to GMP guidelines. This includes maintaining sanitary conditions, implementing appropriate cleaning and sanitation procedures, and assuring the proper storage and handling of raw materials.
  • Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP): Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) is a systematic approach used to identify and control potential food production hazards. Identifies critical control points where mycotoxin contamination can occur and implements control measures to prevent or eliminate contamination at those points.
  • Quality Control and Testing: Regular testing and monitoring for mycotoxin contamination of basic materials, intermediate products, and finished food products is required. This aids in the early detection and avoidance of contaminated products reaching consumers. For mycotoxin analysis, techniques such as immunoassays, chromatography, and mass spectrometry can be utilized.
  • Education and Training: Education and Training It is essential to educate and train farmers, food handlers, and food processors about the risks associated with mycotoxins and the correct preventative measures. This contributes to raising awareness and assuring the implementation of appropriate practices throughout the entire food production chain.
  • Regulatory Standards: Governments and regulatory agencies establish maximum levels of mycotoxin in food and animal feed. Compliance with these regulations contributes to the control of mycotoxin contamination and the protection of consumers.


What are toxigenic fungi?

Toxigenic fungi are molds that have the ability to produce mycotoxins, which are toxic secondary metabolites. These fungi can contaminate various food commodities, posing a risk to human and animal health.

How do toxigenic fungi contaminate food?

Toxigenic fungi can contaminate food during cultivation, harvesting, storage, or processing. They thrive in warm and humid conditions and can grow on crops, such as grains, nuts, fruits, and vegetables, if the conditions are favorable.

What are the health risks associated with mycotoxin contamination in food?

Consuming food contaminated with mycotoxins can lead to a range of health effects, including acute toxicity, organ damage, immunosuppression, carcinogenicity, and developmental abnormalities. The severity of the effects depends on the type and level of mycotoxin exposure.

What are mycotoxins?

Mycotoxins are toxic compounds produced by certain fungi. They can contaminate food and feed, leading to adverse health effects when consumed. Examples include aflatoxins, ochratoxin A, fumonisins, and deoxynivalenol.

How can I detect mycotoxin contamination in food?

Mycotoxin detection methods include immunoassays, chromatographic techniques (such as HPLC and GC), mass spectrometry, and molecular methods (such as PCR). These methods can identify and quantify mycotoxins in food samples.

Are there regulations in place for mycotoxin levels in food?

Yes, many countries have established regulatory limits for mycotoxin levels in food and feed. These limits help ensure food safety and protect public health. Compliance with these regulations is important for food producers and manufacturers.

How can I prevent mycotoxin contamination in food?

Prevention measures include implementing good agricultural practices, proper storage and drying methods, effective pest control, and regular monitoring and testing for mycotoxin levels. These practices can minimize the risk of contamination.

Can mycotoxin contamination be eliminated by cooking or processing food?

Cooking or processing food can reduce some microbial contaminants but may not effectively eliminate mycotoxins. Mycotoxins are stable compounds that can withstand high temperatures and processing methods. Therefore, prevention at the source is crucial.

Are organic foods less susceptible to mycotoxin contamination?

Organic foods are not inherently less susceptible to mycotoxin contamination. However, certain organic farming practices, such as crop rotation and biological control methods, can help manage fungal infections and reduce mycotoxin risk.

Can mycotoxins be harmful to animals and livestock?

Yes, mycotoxin contamination in animal feed can have detrimental effects on livestock health, including reduced feed efficiency, growth retardation, reproductive issues, and increased susceptibility to diseases. Monitoring and prevention are essential for livestock production.


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