Digital Re-print - November | December 2011

Mycotoxins an overview

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FEATURE

Mycotoxins
an overview
by Perstorp Performance Additives, The Netherlands

Food and Feed Quality Control
Reference and Fast-Screening Methods

I

t has been estimated that 25 percent of the crops in the world are contaminated with mycotoxins. And this results in an annual loss of foodstuffs of over 1,000,000 tonnes according to the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation). Let’s have a look at what mycotoxins are, what sub-types there are, what they do and how a consistent mycotoxin policy can help minimise the damage.

5 Fumonisins (FA1, FA2, Fb1, FB2, FB3 and FB) Most mycotoxins are region-specific. For example DON is mostly found in Europe and North America, while aflatoxins are mostly found in the Southern hemisphere.

The effects of mycotoxins
Different mycotoxins have different harmful effects. The consumption of feed containing mycotoxins can lead to numerous problems including reduced immune response, infertility and liver and kidney damage. Aflatoxins are synthesized by Aspergillus spp. and can severely damage the health of animals. In poultry liver damage, inferior egg shell and carcass quality and increased susceptibility to disease are the major symptoms. In pigs the main symptoms after high doses of aflatoxins are feed refusal, reduced weight gain, liver and kidney lesions. Furthermore, aflatoxins can alter the immune response and animal performance. Ochratoxins (OTA) are produced by Aspergillus and Penicillium spp. and are toxic for the kidney where they cause necrosis of the tubules. Off all the mycotoxins OTA is the most toxic for domestic poultry. It is even more deadly for poultry than aflatoxin. In pigs OTA also causes kidney damage which can result in rejection of carcasses. It also affects boar fertility and can affect the unborn foetus. In newborn piglets tail necrosis is often a sign of OTA. Zearolenone is a mycotoxin produced by Fusarium moulds and has oestrogen-like activity in cattle, sheep and pigs. This mimicking of female hormones leads to problems with ovulation, conception and foetal development. Poultry seems to be able to tolerated ZEA well, however turkeys are very sensitive. Trichothecenes are also produced by Fusarium spp. In poultry T2 causes oral lesions which can be used as a field diagnosis.

What are mycotoxins?
Mycotoxins are toxic secondary metabolites produced by organisms of the fungus kingdom - commonly known as moulds such as Aspergillus, Fusarium and Penicillin. One mould species may produce many different mycotoxins and/or the same mycotoxin as another species. They infect crops in the field, can grow on feed or food as it is stored if the environmental conditions (such as temperature and humidity) are favorable. Although thousands of different myco-

Furthermore T2 toxin can cause nervous symptoms as well as abnormal feathering, decreased feed intake and egg production. Don and T2 are the most harmful to pigs. They can cause reduced productivity and even infertility in the sow. In addition DON can cause acute diarrhea of suckling piglets with a high mortality. Fumonisins cause impaired immune function, liver and kidney damage, decreased weight gain and increased mortality in most species. It would appear that poultry is less sensitive to the effect of the fumonisins than pigs. The toxin FB1 in swine leads to specific disease called porcine pulmonary oedema which affects heart and lungs. It is also important to note that if feed is contaminated by more than one mycotoxin the effects can not only be additive but even synergistic meaning a far greater toxicity than expected on the basis of each mycotoxin on its own.

Mycotoxin management
Besides good farming practice to prevent mould growth and subsequent mycotoxin production it is essential that the producer knows the mycotoxin status of his feed. There is an almost bewildering array of testing possibilities available for mycotoxins but they all stand or fall with the method of sampling. At least 12-20 samples need to be taken from the feed taking care to include samples from the side where mould will more readily occur. These samples need then to be mixed thoroughly and a 500 gram sample can be taken and sent for testing. Depending on the mycotoxin and the quantity that has been found, a suitable adsorbent can be chosen to which the mycotoxines adhere and safely pass through the animal without causing harm. Depending on geographical and environmental factors an absorbent could be indicated all year round or at known critical times.
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“Depending on the mycotoxin and the quantity that has been found, a suitable adsorbent can be chosen to which the mycotoxines adhere and safely pass through the animal without causing harm”
toxins have been identified, only 300 are detectable by regular analytical tests. The major mycotoxins are: 1. Aflatoxins (B1, B2, G1 and G2) 2. Ochratoxins (OTA) 3. Zearalenone (ZEA) 4. Trichothecenes (DON also known as Vomitoxin, T2)
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