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Concept: Mycotoxins


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


Fusarium head blight is one of the most important and most common diseases of winter wheat. In order to better understanding this disease and to assess the correlations between different factors, 30 cultivars of this cereal were evaluated in a two-year period. Fusarium head blight resistance was evaluated and the concentration of trichothecene mycotoxins was analysed. Grain samples originated from plants inoculated with Fusarium culmorum and naturally infected with Fusarium species. The genetic distance between the tested cultivars was determined and data were analysed using multivariate data analysis methods. Genetic dissimilarity of wheat cultivars ranged between 0.06 and 0.78. They were grouped into three distinct groups after cluster analysis of genetic distance. Wheat cultivars differed in resistance to spike and kernel infection and in resistance to spread of Fusarium within a spike (type II). Only B trichothecenes (deoxynivalenol, 3-acetyldeoxynivalenol and nivalenol) produced by F. culmorum in grain samples from inoculated plots were present. In control samples trichothecenes of groups A (H-2 toxin, T-2 toxin, T-2 tetraol, T-2 triol, scirpentriol, diacetoxyscirpenol) and B were detected. On the basis of Fusarium head blight assessment and analysis of trichothecene concentration in the grain relationships between morphological characters, Fusarium head blight resistance and mycotoxins in grain of wheat cultivars were examined. The results were used to create of matrices of distance between cultivars - for trichothecene concentration in inoculated and naturally infected grain as well as for FHB resistance Correlations between genetic distance versus resistance/mycotoxin profiles were calculated using the Mantel test. A highly significant correlation between genetic distance and mycotoxin distance was found for the samples inoculated with Fusarium culmorum. Significant but weak relationships were found between genetic distance matrix and FHB resistance or trichothecene concentration in naturally infected grain matrices.

Concepts: Fusarium, Wheat, Data analysis, Cereal, Plant pathogens and diseases, Mycotoxins, Stachybotrys, Trichothecene


Mycotoxins are toxic and carcinogenic metabolites produced by fungi that colonize food crops. The most agriculturally important mycotoxins known today are aflatoxins, which cause liver cancer and have also been implicated in child growth impairment and acute toxicoses; fumonisins, which have been associated with esophageal cancer (EC) and neural tube defects (NTDs); deoxynivalenol (DON) and other trichothecenes, which are immunotoxic and cause gastroenteritis; and ochratoxin A (OTA), which has been associated with renal diseases. This review describes the adverse human health impacts associated with these major groups of mycotoxins. First, we provide background on the fungi that produce these different mycotoxins and on the food crops commonly infected. Then, we describe each group of mycotoxins in greater detail, as well as the adverse effects associated with each mycotoxin and the populations worldwide at risk. We conclude with a brief discussion on estimations of global burden of disease caused by dietary mycotoxin exposure. Expected final online publication date for the Annual Review of Food Science and Technology Volume 5 is February 28, 2014. Please see for revised estimates.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Cancer, Nutrition, Fungus, Aflatoxin, Mycotoxin, Ochratoxin, Mycotoxins


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


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


An improved method for the quantitative determination of aflatoxins (B1, B2, G1, G2), ochratoxin A, fumonisins (B1, B2), zearalenone, deoxynivalenol, nivalenol, T-2 and HT-2 toxins in cereals and derived products, at levels comparable with EU maximum permitted levels, was developed. The effective co-extraction of the mycotoxins under investigation was achieved in 4min by a double extraction approach, using water followed by methanol. Clean up of the extract was performed by a new multi-toxin immunoaffinity column. Analytical performance characteristics were evaluated through single laboratory validation. Raw wheat and maize, corn flakes and maize snacks were chosen as representative matrices for method validation. The validation assay was carried out at 50, 100 and 150% of EU maximum permitted levels for each mycotoxin. Statistical analysis of the results (ANOVA) provided the within laboratory reproducibility and the error contributions from repeatability, between day effects, and influences from different matrix composition. Recoveries generally higher than 70% were obtained for all tested mycotoxins with relative standard deviation (within laboratory reproducibility) lesser than 37%. Limits of quantification (calculated as the lowest amount of each analyte which could be determined with a precision of 10%) ranged from 1μg/kg to 30μg/kg. The trueness of generated data was assessed by analysis of reference materials. The proposed method was proven to be suitable to assess, with a single analysis, compliance of the selected cereal based foods with the EU maximum permitted or recommended levels for all regulated mycotoxins.

Concepts: Scientific method, Mycotoxin, Wheat, Cereal, Maize, Aspergillus, Ochratoxin, Mycotoxins


A sensitive, simple and rapid method for the simultaneous determination of 19 mycotoxins in biscuits (a dry matrix containing cereals and egg) has been developed using high performance liquid chromatography coupled to tandem mass spectrometry with electrospray source working in both positive and negative mode. Due to the matrix complexity and the high amount of contaminants, a solid phase extraction method using graphitized carbon black was optimized for an effective clean-up step. Accuracy was carried out in the selected matrix using blank samples spiked at three analyte concentrations. Recoveries between 63 and 107% and relative standard deviations lower than 12% were obtained. For all considered mycotoxin classes, i.e. thricotecenes A and B, zearalenone and its metabolites, fumonisins, ochratoxin A, enniatins and their structurally related beauvericin, the method was validated in terms of linearity, recovery, matrix effect, precision, limit of detection and limit of quantification. Matrix-matched calibration was used for quantification purposes, in order to compensate for matrix effect. The coefficients of determination obtained were in the range of 0.9927-1. The limits of quantification, ranging from 0.04μgkg(-1) for enniatin B1 to 80.2μgkg(-1) for nivalenol, were always lower than maximum permitted levels for every regulated mycotoxin by the current European legislation.

Concepts: Mass spectrometry, Mycotoxin, High performance liquid chromatography, Analytical chemistry, Liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry, Tandem mass spectrometry, Ochratoxin, Mycotoxins


In this paper we describe a rapid, simple, and cost-effective liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometric (LC-MS-MS) method for simultaneous analysis of aflatoxin B1, B2, G1, and G2, ochratoxin A, and sterigmatocystin in 25 traditional Chinese medicines (TCMs). The method is based on single extraction with 84:16 (v/v) acetonitrile-water then analysis of the diluted crude extract without further clean-up. Chromatographic separation was achieved on a C18 column, with a mobile phase gradient prepared from aqueous 4 mmol L(-1) ammonium acetate-0.1 % formic acid and methanol. Quantification of the analytes was by selective reaction monitoring (SRM) on a triple-quadrupole mass spectrometer in positive-ionization mode. Special focus was on investigating and reducing matrix effects to improve accuracy. The established method was validated by determination of linearity (r > 0.995), sensitivity (limits of quantification 1.6-25.0 ng L(-1)), apparent recovery (84.8-110.6 %), extraction recovery (83.6-106.1 %), and precision (relative standard deviation ≤9.9 %) for two representative TCMs, Semen Armeniacae Amarae and Radix Pseudostellariae. The applicability of the method to TCMs other than these was further investigated, and 23 other TCMs with acceptable matrix effects (80.2-118.6 %) were screened. The validated method was finally used to assess mycotoxin contamination of 244 samples of 25 TCMs collected from local hospitals and TCM pharmacies. Aflatoxin B1 and ochratoxin A were detected in 5.3 % of the samples. Sterigmatocystin, the most prevalent mycotoxin contaminant, was present in 26.2 % of the samples tested; this has not been reported previously. The results of this work imply greater attention should be devoted to evaluation of the potential hazard caused by sterigmatocystin in TCMs.

Concepts: Aflatoxin, Mycotoxin, Chromatography, Aspergillus, Traditional Chinese characters, Methanol, Ochratoxin, Mycotoxins


An aptamer based lateral flow strip based on competitive format was developed for on-site rapid detection of ochratoxin A (OTA) in Astragalus membranaceus. Some crucial parameters that might influence the sensitive detection, such as the characterization of the colloidal gold, size and shape of gold nanoparticles (AuNPs), amount of AuNPs-aptamer conjugate, migration rate and the addition amount of methanol, were investigated to provide the optimum assay performance. To perform the test, 1g sample was extracted with 2.5mL of methanol-water (80:20, v/v) and diluted by 4-fold running buffer to eliminate the matrix and methanol interferences. Under optimized conditions, the aptamer-based assay showed a visual limit of detection (LOD) of 1ngmL(-1), and with no significant cross-reactivity with several homologous toxins. The whole detection could be completed within 15min without special equipment because of available visual results. One out of nine A. membranaceus samples was found to be positive of OTA, which was in a good agreement with those obtained from LC-MS/MS analysis. The results demonstrated that the aptamer-based lateral flow assay could be used as a rapid, reliable, cost-effective and robust on-site screening technique for mycotoxins at trace level in complex matrices without special instrumentation.

Concepts: Nanoparticle, Nanotechnology, Gold, Colloidal gold, Astragalus, Ochratoxin, Mycotoxins, Chloroauric acid


Several research studies reported that mycotoxins and other metabolites can be produced by fungi in certain matrices such as food. In recent years, attention has been drawn to the wide occurrence and identification of fungi in drinking water sources. Due to the large demand of water for drinking, watering, or food production purposes, it is imperative that further research is conducted to investigate if mycotoxins may be produced in water matrices. This paper describes the results obtained when a validated analytical method was applied to detect and quantify the presence of mycotoxins as a result of fungi inoculation and growth in untreated surface water. Aflatoxins B1 and B2, fumonisin B3, and ochratoxin A were detected at concentrations up to 35 ng/L. These results show that fungi can produce mycotoxins in water matrices in a non-negligible quantity and, as such, attention must be given to the presence of fungi in water.

Concepts: Fungus, Water, Aflatoxin, Mycotoxin, Aspergillus, Water resources, Ochratoxin, Mycotoxins