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ARS Home » Southeast Area » New Orleans, Louisiana » Southern Regional Research Center » Food and Feed Safety Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #307970

Title: Mycotoxins

item BENNETT, JOAN - Rutgers University
item Moore, Geromy

Submitted to: Book Chapter
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: 3/8/2015
Publication Date: 7/8/2015
Citation: Bennett, J.W., Moore, G.G. 2015. Mycotoxins. Reference Module in Biomedical Sciences. Elsevier. doi:10.1016/B.978-0-12-801238-3.02409-0.

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 of limited taxonomic distribution, that is, they 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 mycotoxicoses; the vast majority of characterized mycotoxicoses are due to dietary exposure. Many mycotoxins are potent in low doses, that is, quite small amounts of these compounds can represent significant health effects. Since filamentous fungi are common and opportunistic organisms, mycotoxins are widespread. These toxins contaminate foods and feeds across the globe and are of increasing concern as possible contaminants of indoor environments. Some mycotoxins 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 implicated in certain cancers as well as many different disorders affecting the gastrointestinal, urogenital, vascular, renal, respiratory, and nervous systems. Some mycotoxins are immunocompromising, 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. Although as yet unproven, there also is increasing concern that mycotoxins may be implicated in the adverse health effects associated with exposure to mold growth in damp indoor environments. 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. Certain internationally focused groups such as the Gates Foundation have increased support for research on mycotoxin control in Africa and other highly impacted parts of the world.