What are mycotoxins?

Mycotoxins are dangerous chemicals produced by fungi. Their exact purpose is unknown. One mould species might make many different mycotoxins, and different species might make the same mycotoxins too. Mycotoxins are made in large quantities when fungi proliferate and form colonies. There are a few major types of mycotoxin.

Alfatoxins are made by Aspergillus fungi. There are 4 types of alfatoxin: B1, B2, G1, and G2. B1 is the most dangerous. Alfatoxins are carcinogenic, and can cause aggressive liver cancers.

Ochratoxins are made by Penicillium and Aspergillus fungi. There are three forms – A, B, and C. It is also carcinogenic (it can cause cancer) and can also cause damage to kidneys. Tumours caused by ochratoxins are typically those of the urinary tract.

Citrinin is produced by Penicillium and Aspergillus fungi. It is associated with yellow rice disease in Japan and can also cause damage to kidneys. It can act together with ochratoxin A to cause damage to the genetic material in kidneys.

Ergot alkaloids are made by Claviceps fungi, particularly Claviceps purpurea. This fungus affects cereals. It can cause ergotism, which can cause seizures, nausea, diarrhoea, hallucinations, and gangrene (death of tissues) caused by blood vessels becoming narrower (vasoconstriction). It is thought that eating rye bread infected with Claviceps purpurea caused the seizures and hallucinations and “bewitchment” in people who were convicted of being witches in the 17th Century in Salem, Massateusets (in America).

Patulin is made by various Penicillin, Aspergillus, and Paecilomyces fungi. Some of these fungi are particularly common in rotting fruit or vegetables. Patulin may cause damage to the immune system.

Fusarium toxins are made by Fusarium fungi, which infect cereal crops such as wheat and maize. The effects of fusarium toxins vary among species, and depend upon the exact toxin as well. Some of these may not cause any fatal toxic conditions.

Mould allergies Guide Index:

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