Submitted to: Book Chapter
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/11/2008
Publication Date: N/A
Citation: Interpretive Summary:
Technical Abstract: Mycotoxins are low molecular weight natural products produced by molds that are toxic to vertebrates in low concentrations. In most cases, mycotoxins are made by only a few species within certain fungal genera. Animals are exposed to mycotoxins through ingestion, inhalation, and/or skin contact. The ensuing diseases produced by mycotoxin exposure are called mycotoxicosis. Many mycotoxins are potent in low doses, i.e. quite small amounts of the compound can represent significant health effects. Since filamentous fungi are common and opportunistic organisms, mycotoxins are wide spread. They are found in foods and feeds across the globe and are of increasing concern as possible contaminants in the indoor environment. A few of them have been implicated as chemical warfare agents. As with all toxins, the route of exposure (i.e. how the substance enters the animal body), the dose (how much of the substance is present), and the duration (the length of time the mycotoxin is present), interact to affect the severity of the outcome. Mycotoxins are responsible for cancers, as well as many different disorders affecting the gastrointestinal, urogenital, vascular, kidney, and nervous systems. Some mycotoxins are immuno-compromising, thereby reducing resistance to infectious disease. It is estimated that 25% of the world's crops, including many basic foods, are contaminated by mycotoxin producing fungi. There is an ongoing need to protect the health of humans and susceptible animals by limiting their exposure to mycotoxins. Despite many years of research and the introduction of good practices in the chain of food production, storage, and distribution, mycotoxins continue to be a problem. Many countries regulate mycotoxin levels in foods and feeds because of their public health significance and commercial impact.