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Concept: Mycotoxin


Over the past 20 years, exposure to mycotoxin producing mold has been recognized as a significant health risk. Scientific literature has demonstrated mycotoxins as possible causes of human disease in water-damaged buildings (WDB). This study was conducted to determine if selected mycotoxins could be identified in human urine from patients suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). Patients (n = 112) with a prior diagnosis of CFS were evaluated for mold exposure and the presence of mycotoxins in their urine. Urine was tested for aflatoxins (AT), ochratoxin A (OTA) and macrocyclic trichothecenes (MT) using Enzyme Linked Immunosorbent Assays (ELISA). Urine specimens from 104 of 112 patients (93%) were positive for at least one mycotoxin (one in the equivocal range). Almost 30% of the cases had more than one mycotoxin present. OTA was the most prevalent mycotoxin detected (83%) with MT as the next most common (44%). Exposure histories indicated current and/or past exposure to WDB in over 90% of cases. Environmental testing was performed in the WDB from a subset of these patients. This testing revealed the presence of potentially mycotoxin producing mold species and mycotoxins in the environment of the WDB. Prior testing in a healthy control population with no history of exposure to a WDB or moldy environment (n = 55) by the same laboratory, utilizing the same methods, revealed no positive cases at the limits of detection.

Concepts: Aflatoxin, Mycotoxin, Aspergillus, Chronic fatigue syndrome, Ochratoxin, Mycotoxins, Stachybotrys, Mold


Production of sea salt begins with evaporation of sea water in shallow pools called salterns, and ends with the harvest and packing of salts. This process provides many opportunities for fungal contamination. This study aimed to determine whether finished salts contain viable fungi that have the potential to cause spoilage when sea salt is used as a food ingredient by isolating fungi on a medium that simulated salted food with a lowered water activity (0.95 aw). The viable filamentous fungi from seven commercial salts were quantified and identified by DNA sequencing, and the fungal communities in different salts were compared. Every sea salt tested contained viable fungi, in concentrations ranging from 0.07 to 1.71 colony-forming units per gram of salt. In total, 85 fungi were isolated representing seven genera. One or more species of the most abundant genera, Aspergillus, Cladosporium, and Penicillium was found in every salt. Many species found in this study have been previously isolated from low water activity environments, including salterns and foods. We conclude that sea salts contain many fungi that have potential to cause food spoilage as well as some that may be mycotoxigenic.

Concepts: Biology, Fungus, Water, Mycotoxin, Sodium chloride, Ascomycota, Salt, Edible salt


Aflatoxins are highly toxic, mutagenic, teratogenic and carcinogenic mycotoxins. Consumption of aflatoxin-contaminated food and commodities poses serious hazards to the health of humans and animals. Turmeric, Curcuma longa L., is a native plant of Southeast Asia and has antimicrobial, antioxidant and antifungal properties. This paper reports the antiaflatoxigenic activities of the essential oil of C. longa and curcumin. The medium tests were prepared with the oil of C. longa, and the curcumin standard at concentrations varied from 0.01% to 5.0%. All doses of the essential oil of the plant and the curcumin standard interfered with mycotoxin production. Both the essential oil and curcumin significantly inhibited the production of aflatoxins; the 0.5% level had a greater than 96% inhibitory effect. The levels of aflatoxin B(1) (AFB(1)) production were 1.0 and 42.7 μg/mL, respectively, for the samples treated with the essential oil of C. longa L. and curcumin at a concentration of 0.5%.

Concepts: Fungus, Aspergillus flavus, Aflatoxin, Mycotoxin, Aspergillus, Curcuma, Turmeric, Curcumin


In the present study, the antifungal effects of phenylmercuric nitrate and benzalkonium chloride versus those of natamycin and ketoconazole were assessed against 216 filamentous fungi isolates from cases of fungal keratitis. They included 112 Fusarium isolates, 94 Aspergillus isolates, and 10 Alternaria alternata isolates. The strains were tested by broth dilution antifungal susceptibility testing of filamentous fungi approved by the Clinical and Laboratory Standards Institute M38-A document. The results showed that the MIC(50) values of phenylmercuric nitrate were 0.0156, 0.0156, and 0.0313 μg/mL for Fusarium spp., Aspergillus spp., and A. alternata, respectively. The MIC(90) values of phenylmercuric nitrate were 0.0313, 0.0313, and 0.0313 μg/mL for Fusarium spp., Aspergillus spp., and A. alternata, respectively. The MIC(50) values of benzalkonium chloride were 16, 32, and 8 μg/mL for Fusarium spp., Aspergillus spp., and A. alternata, respectively. The MIC(90) values of benzalkonium chloride were 32, 32, and 16 μg/mL for Fusarium spp., Aspergillus spp., and A. alternata, respectively. The study indicates that phenylmercuric nitrate has considerable antifungal activity and its effect is significantly superior to those of benzalkonium chloride, natamycin, and ketoconazole against ocular pathogenic filamentous fungi in vitro, deserving further investigation for treating fungal keratitis as a main drug.

Concepts: Fungus, Mycotoxin, Aspergillus, Ascomycota, Aspergillus oryzae, Fungi, Alternaria alternata, Chlorides


It has previously been shown that the biosynthesis of the mycotoxins ochratoxin A and B and of citrinin by Penicillium is regulated by light. However, not only the biosynthesis of these mycotoxins, but also the molecules themselves are strongly affected by light of certain wavelengths. The white light and blue light of 470 and 455 nm are especially able to degrade ochratoxin A, ochratoxin B and citrinin after exposure for a certain time. After the same treatment of the secondary metabolites with red (627 nm), yellow (590 nm) or green (530 nm) light or in the dark, almost no degradation occurred during that time indicating the blue light as the responsible part of the spectrum. The two derivatives of ochratoxin (A and B) are degraded to certain definitive degradation products which were characterized by HPLC-FLD-FTMS. The degradation products of ochratoxin A and B did no longer contain phenylalanine however were still chlorinated in the case of ochratoxin A. Citrinin is completely degraded by blue light. A fluorescent band was no longer visible after detection by TLC suggesting a higher sensitivity and apparently greater absorbance of energy by citrinin. The fact that especially blue light degrades the three secondary metabolites is apparently attributed to the absorption spectra of the metabolites which all have an optimum in the short wave length range. The absorption range of citrinin is, in particular, broader and includes the wave length of blue light. In wheat, which was contaminated with an ochratoxin A producing culture of Penicillium verrucosum and treated with blue light after a pre-incubation by the fungus, the concentration of the preformed ochratoxin A reduced by roughly 50% compared to the control and differed by > 90% compared to the sample incubated further in the dark. This indicates that the light degrading effect is also exerted in vivo, e.g., on food surfaces. The biological consequences of the light instability of the toxins are discussed.

Concepts: Light, Electromagnetic radiation, Mycotoxin, Wavelength, Penicillium, Visible spectrum, Ochratoxin, Mycotoxins


Red rice is a fermented product of Monascus spp. It is widely consumed by Malaysian Chinese who believe in its pharmacological properties. The traditional method of red rice preparation disregards safety regulation and renders red rice susceptible to fungal infestation and mycotoxin contamination. A preliminary study was undertaken aiming to determine the occurrence of mycotoxigenic fungi and mycotoxins contamination on red rice at consumer level in Selangor, Malaysia. Fifty red rice samples were obtained and subjected to fungal isolation, enumeration, and identification. Citrinin, aflatoxin, and ochratoxin-A were quantitated by ELISA based on the presence of predominant causal fungi. Fungal loads of 1.4 × 10(4) to 2.1 × 10(6) CFU/g exceeded Malaysian limits. Monascus spp. as starter fungi were present in 50 samples (100 %), followed by Penicillium chrysogenum (62 %), Aspergillus niger (54 %), and Aspergillus flavus (44 %). Citrinin was present in 100 % samples (0.23-20.65 mg/kg), aflatoxin in 92 % samples (0.61-77.33 μg/kg) and Ochratoxin-A in 100 % samples (0.23-2.48 μg/kg); 100 % citrinin and 76.09 % aflatoxin exceeded Malaysian limits. The presence of mycotoxigenic fungi served as an indicator of mycotoxins contamination and might imply improper production, handling, transportation, and storage of red rice. Further confirmatory analysis (e.g., HPLC) is required to verify the mycotoxins level in red rice samples and to validate the safety status of red rice.

Concepts: Fungus, Aspergillus flavus, Aflatoxin, Mycotoxin, Aspergillus, Ascomycota, Penicillium, Mold


Ochratoxin A (OTA) is a mycotoxin found in a wide range of food and feedstuffs. Intake of OTA-contaminated food causes health concern due to the harmful effects reported on humans and animals. Much effort is currently devoted to set up and optimise highly sensitive and accurate methods of OTA analysis. This work describes the comparison of fluorescence-based immunosensing strategies for the analysis of OTA. First, an indirect competitive fluoroimmunoassay was designed and optimised. The assay enabled the quantification of the toxin at the levels set by the European legislation. Then, a flow-immunoassay based on kinetic exclusion measurements was developed. It showed the theoretical lowest limit of detection enabled by the affinity of the anti-OTA antibody (IC(80)=12ngL(-1) in the assay solution). Wine and cereal samples were analysed using the optimised flow system. No significant matrix effects were observed after simple pre-treatment of wine and OTA extraction from corn-flakes samples. This simple and highly sensitive automated biosensing-system allows OTA quantification in food and beverages. It is envisaged as a powerful tool for rapid and reliable toxin screening.

Concepts: Scientific method, Energy, Measurement, Mycotoxin, Cereal, Search engine optimization, Ochratoxin, Ochratoxin A


Many fungi can develop on building material in indoor environments if moisture is high enough. Among species that are frequently observed, some are known to be potent mycotoxin producers. This presence of toxinogenic fungi in indoor environments raises the question of the possible exposure of occupants to these toxic compounds by inhalation after aerosolization.This study investigated the mycotoxin production by Penicillium brevicompactum, Aspergillus versicolor and Stachybotrys chartarum during their growth on wallpaper and the possible subsequent aerosolization of produced mycotoxins from contaminated substrates.We demonstrated that mycophenolic acid, sterigmatocystin and macrocyclic trichothecenes (sum of 4 major compounds) could be produced at levels of 1.8, 112.1 and 27.8 mg/m(2), respectively on wallpaper. Moreover, part of the produced toxins could be aerosolized from substrate. The propensity to aerosolization differed according to the fungal species. Thus, particles were aerosolized from wallpaper contaminated with P. brevicompactum when air velocity of just 0.3 m/s was applied, where S. chartarum required air velocity of 5.9 m/s. A versicolor was intermediate since aerosolization occurred under air velocity of 2 m/s.Quantification of the toxic content revealed that toxic load was mostly associated with particles of size equal or higher of 3 μm, which may correspond to spores. However, some macrocyclic trichothecenes (especially satratoxin H and verrucarin J) can also be found on smaller particles that can penetrate deeply in the respiratory tract upon inhalation. These elements are important for risk assessment related to mouldy environments.IMPORTANCE The possible colonisation of building material by toxinogenic fungi in case of moistening raises the question of the subsequent exposure of occupants to aerosolized mycotoxins. In this study, we demonstrated that three different toxinogenic species produce mycotoxins during their development on wallpaper. These toxins can subsequently be aerosolized, at least partly, from mouldy material. This transfer to air requires air velocities that can be encountered in « real life conditions » in buildings. The most part of the aerosolized toxic load is found in particles whose size corresponds to spores or mycelium fragments. However, some toxins were also found on particles smaller than spores that are easily respirable and can deeply penetrate into human respiratory tract. All these data are important for risk assessment related to fungal contamination of indoor environments.

Concepts: Fungus, Mycotoxin, Respiratory system, Aspergillus, Penicillium, Mushroom, Stachybotrys, Mold


Bisphenol A has been widely used in plastic containers and this has raised safety concerns for fetuses, infants, and young children. Aflatoxin B1, ochratoxin A, and patulin are among the most toxic regulated mycotoxins found as contaminants in agricultural crops and animal products. To facilitate the analysis of these chemicals for regulatory purposes, we have developed an analytical method enabling their simultaneous detection in beverages and food products.

Concepts: Fungus, Aflatoxin, Mycotoxin, Bisphenol A, Harvest, Aspergillus, Ochratoxin, Mycotoxins


The aim of this study was to evaluate the effect of essential oil from fresh leaves of Sweet Fennel (Ocimum gratissimum) on mycoflora and Aspergillus section Flavi populations in stored peanuts. Aspergillus, Fusarium and Mucor spp. were the most common genera identified from peanuts at post-harvest in Benin by using a taxonomic schemes primarily based on morphological characters of mycelium and conidia. The isolated fungi include Aspergillus niger, A. parasiticus, A. flavus, A. ochraceus, Fusarium graminearum, F. solani, F. oxysporum and Mucor spp. The most prevalent fungi recorded were A. niger (94.18 %), A. flavus (83.72 %), A. parasiticus (77.90 %), A. ochraceus (72.09 %), F. graminearum (59.30 %) and F. oxysporum (51.16 %). Antifungal assay, performed by the agar medium assay, indicated that essential oil exhibited high antifungal activity against the growth of A. flavus, A. parasiticus, A. ochraceus and F. oxysporium. The minimal inhibitory concentration (MIC) of the essential oil was found to be 7.5 μl/ml for A. flavus and A. parasiticus and 5.5 μl/ml for A. ochraceus and F. oxysporium. The minimal fungicidal concentration (MFC) was recorded to be 8.0 μl/ml for A. flavus and A. parasiticus, 6,5 μl/ml for A. ochraceus and 6.0 μl/ml for F. oxysporium. The essential oil was found to be strongly fungicidal and inhibitory to aflatoxin production. Chemical analysis by GC/MS of the components of the oil led to the identification of 31 components characterized by myrcene (6.4 %), α-thujene (8.2 %), p-cymene (17.6 %), γ-terpinene (20.0 %), and thymol (26.9 %) as major components. The essential oil of Sweet Fennel, with fungal growth and mycotoxin inhibitory properties, offers a novel approach to the management of storage, thus opening up the possibility to prevent mold contamination in stored peanuts.

Concepts: Fungus, Aspergillus flavus, Aflatoxin, Mycotoxin, Fusarium, Aspergillus, Ascomycota, Aspergillus niger