A Mycotoxin Primer


Beware the mycotoxin. It can pass through cell walls, disrupt processes and cause damage. Mycotoxins are secondary metabolites produced by microfungi. Mycotoxins can cause disease and death. Collectively, diseases caused by mycotoxins are called mycotoxicoses.

There are two types of Mycoses: primary pathogens and opportunistic. Primary pathogens affect otherwise healthy individuals with normal immune systems. Opportunistic pathogens produce illness by taking advantage of debilitated or immunocompromised hosts.

On the other hand, mycotoxicoses are examples of “poisoning by natural means,” and similar to illness caused by pesticides or heavy metal exposure. Symptoms depend on the type of mycotoxin; the amount and duration of the exposure; and factors about the individual, such as age, health, etc. Mycotoxicoses affects vulnerable individuals; and once involved, increases vulnerability to other disease. Illness can be acquired by inhalation of spores. Species normally occurring on skin or in the body can become pathogenic after antibacterial or immuno-supressing drugs which clear the field and allow the fungus to grow unchecked.

For human populations, in order to demonstrate that a disease is a mycotoxicosis, it is necessary to show a dose-response relationship between the mycotoxin and the disease. This correlation requires epidemiological studies which can be problematic. Toxicology studies are most frequently performed by non-toxoligists such as agriculturalists, chemists, microbiologists, and veterinarians. Human exposure to mycotoxins is also gauged by environmental or biological monitoring.


src: Mycotoxins10.1128CMR.16.3.497-516.2003.pdf

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