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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Mycotoxins and Fungi, Chronic Deleterious Chemical and Biological Agents in Us Agriculture: Plants, Animals, Humans

Authors
item Porter, James
item Bacon, Charles

Submitted to: Gordon Research Conference Proceedings
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: March 1, 2002
Publication Date: June 30, 2002
Citation: Porter, J.K., Bacon, C.W. 2002. MYCOTOXINS AND FUNGI, CHRONIC DELETERIOUS CHEMICAL AND BIOLOGICAL AGENTS IN US AGRICULTURE: PLANTS, ANIMALS, HUMANS. Gordon Research Conference Proceedings. June 30 - July 5, 2002. South Holyoke, MA.

Interpretive Summary: Abstract only.

Technical Abstract: Public health, the economy, and a country's independence is predicated on its food production and utilization. Mycotoxins are natural toxins produced by fungi growing on or in corn, wheat, barley, sorghum, other cereal grains, a variety of other agricultural commodities, and food and feed products. The natural occurrence of saprophytic, parasitic (both localize and systemic) and endophytic plant fungi annually cause devastating economic losses in plant, animal, and human productivity. Major toxicology problems associated with decreased weight gains, reproductive problems, poor feed conversion and mortality in livestock and poultry have been associated with: Fusarium, Aspergillus, Penicillium, Alternaria, Neotyphodium, and Claviceps-infected foods, feed products and pasture grasses and the toxic metabolites produced by these fungi (i.e., the fumonisins, aflatoxins, deoxynivalenol and other trichothecenes, ochratoxins, zearalenone and other estrogenic mycotoxins, patulin, and the ergot toxins). The mycotoxins produced by these genera also have been targeted as major human health concerns in several disorders related to the consumption of contaminated cereal grains (e.g., esophageal cancer; spontaneous abortions; agalactia; alimentary toxic aleukia; dermal toxicities; immune suppression, central nervous system disorders, hepatic and renal toxicities, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, etc.). Although acute toxicities are generally associated with high concentrations of these compounds, chronic exposure is more likely the norm and can be more devastating. Chronic exposure is more likely the form that such a directed threat against humans and our basic agricultural commodities will occur. In addition to the discovery of these mycotoxins in cereal grains and other foods and feeds, cheeses and milk, other dairy products, sausages, fruits and nuts, vegetables, and alcoholic beverages have all come under surveillance for mycotoxin contamination. The current knowledge associated with fungal growth and mycotoxin production, the potential genetic engineering of fungi for increased plant and animal virulence, and the economic consequences associated with contaminated commodities in the import/export markets makes these fungi likely organisms for chemical and biological terrorism. Furthermore, a plethora of domestic and foreign knowledge, expertise, and capabilities exist in these disciplines. Herein lies the capacity to tilt the balance of trade in export/import markets, cripple a countries economy via contaminated food supplies, decrease production on all levels of agriculture, and ultimately threaten public health. Therefore, their economic significance to production, import/export markets, and their role in human and animal health underscores the importance of definitive analytical methodology and surveillance of our food and feed products for the chronic effects of mycotoxins and the fungi that produce them. Support of investigations into mechanisms for introducing fungi or mycotoxins into agricultural commodities and the development of strategies to recognize contamination and chronic exposures to specific toxins are necessary in order to evaluate and develop unequivocal defenses for their detection and control.

Last Modified: 12/19/2014
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