Submitted to: Applied Mycology and Biotechnology
Publication Type: Review article
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/17/2003
Publication Date: 10/1/2003
Citation: DESJARDINS, A.E., BHATNAGAR, D. FUNGAL GENOMICS: AN OVERVIEW. APPLIED MYCOLOGY AND BIOTECHNOLOGY. 2003. V. 3. P. 1-13. Interpretive Summary:
Technical Abstract: Mycotoxins are low molecular weight secondary metabolites of fungi that are contaminants of agricultural commodities, foods, and feeds. Fungi that produce these toxins do so both prior to harvest and during storage. Although contamination of commodities by toxigenic fungi occur frequently in areas with a hot and humid climate (i.e. conditions favorable for fungal growth), they can also be found in temperate conditions. Although outbreaks of mycotoxicoses in humans have been documented, several of these have not been well characterized, nor has a direct correlation between the mycotoxin and resulting toxic effect been well established in vivo. The toxicity of the mycotoxins varies considerably with the toxin, the animal species exposed to it, and the extent of exposure, age, and nutritional status. Most of the toxic effects of mycotoxins are limited to organs, but several mycotoxins affect many organs. Induction of cancer by some mycotoxins is a major concern as a chronic effect of these toxins. It is nearly impossible to eliminate mycotoxins from the foods and feed in spite of the regulatory efforts at the national and international levels to remove the contaminated commodities. This is because mycotoxins are highly stable compounds, the producing fungi are ubiquitous, and food contamination can occur both before and after harvest. Nevertheless, good farm management practices and adequate storage facilities minimize the toxin contamination problems. A combination of natural biocontrol competition fungi and enhancement of host-resistance against fungal growth or toxin production could prevent toxin formation to a very significant extent. Rigorous programs for reducing the risk of human and animal exposure to contaminated foods and feed also include economically feasible and safe detoxification processes and dietary modifications. But multiple approaches will be needed to minimize the negative economic impact of the toxins on the entire agriculture industry as well as their harmful effects on human and animal health.