Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Mycotoxins are poisons produced by fungal growth in cereals, nuts, fruits, and vegetables.

Mycotoxins are poisons produced by fungal growth in cereals, nuts, fruits, and vegetables. More than 100 species of fungi produce these toxins. The most common mycotoxin is aflatoxin, produced by Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus parasiticus. Commonly found on corn, peanuts, and tree nuts, the toxin also can be transmitted to humans through the milk, meat, or eggs of animals fed contaminated grains. Aflatoxin is the most potent carcinogen, or potentially cancer-causing agent, yet discovered.

Other mycotoxins include trichothecenes and zearalenone, compounds known to injure the intestines, bone marrow, lymph nodes, spleen, and thymus. They are produced by species of Fusarium that grow on grain, straw, or hay stored while damp. Occasionally, circumstances prevent the harvesting of grains during the autumn, and the grains lie dormant in the damp fields until they are harvested in the spring. These grains are especially vulnerable to trichothecenes and zearalenone contamination. A large outbreak of trichothecenes contamination occurred in Russia in early 1944 among hungry peasants who had been searching the winter fields for unharvested wheat and millet.Scientific classification: Fungi are classified in the Kingdom Fungi, also known as the Kingdom Mycetae. The kingdom has five main phyla: Chytridiomycota, Zygomycota, Ascomycota, Basidiomycota, and Deuteromycota.

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