This page contains educational material about mycotoxins. This information is for educational purposes only. Nothing in this text is intended to serve as medical advice. All medical decisions should be made only with the guidance of your own personal medical authority. I am doing my best to get this data up quickly and correctly. If you find errors in this data, please let me know.
Mycotoxins are a type of biotoxin. Other biotoxins would include things such as wasp venom and snake venom. This gives you an idea of how toxic mycotoxins can be. So now, that you realize mycotoxins can be extrememly toxic, lets take a closer look at them.
When under the right conditions, as molds grow, some molds may produce potentially toxic byproducts called mycotoxins. Molds that produce mycotoxins are often referred to as toxigenic fungi. Some of these molds are commonly found in moisture-damaged buildings. More than 200 mycotoxins from common molds have been identified, and many more remain to be identified. The amount and types of mycotoxins produced by a particular mold depends on many environmental and genetic factors. No one can tell whether a mold is producing mycotoxins just by looking at it. Some mycotoxins are known to affect people, but for many mycotoxins little health information is available. Research on mycotoxins is ongoing. Exposure to mycotoxins can occur from inhalation, ingestion, and skin contact. It is prudent to avoid unnecessary inhalation or other exposure to mold.
Some compounds produced by molds have strong smells and are volatile and quickly released into the air. These compounds are known as microbial volatile organic compounds (mVOCs). Because mVOCs often have strong or unpleasant odors, they can be the source of the "moldy odor" or musty smell frequently associated with mold growth. A moldy odor suggests that mold is growing in the building and should be investigated.
Mycotoxins are toxic chemicals produced by fungi. They are secondary metabolites believed to be used by fungal organisms as a protective mechanism. The mycotoxins are not necessary for the fungus to live but they do help give them an advantage in their environment. Mycotoxins appear to be a method that fungi use to protect their terriain and allow them to thrive and proliferate. Mycotoxins can be hazardous to humans and animals. In fact, within a host fungi may use mycotoxins to weaken that hosts defences to they may grow and thrive.
Mycotoxins have been shown to cause damage in animals and humans from ingestion, contact wtih skin and inhalation. Some people are more susceptible to mycotoxins than others due to genetic variation. They can be tested for this genetic variation. Some mycotoxins are more dangerous than other mycotoxins. There is a lot of variability here.
Mold is a type of fungus that makes mycotoxins. One mold species can produce many different types of mycotoxins and a mycotoxin can be produced by many different species of mold. I have listed various mycotoxins and the molds that produce them in the Mold Dictionary.
The mycotoxins produced by a fungi and the severity of their toxicity depends on their surrounding environment as well as the type of fungus itself. What the fungi is growing on, the humidity and the temerpature are all factors at play. Other organisms in the environment of the fungi, other chemicals etc can also effect the type of mycotoxins and their toxicity. The more threatened a fungus is by its environment, the more mycotoxins it may produce to protect itself.
There are numerous mycotoxins. I have created a mold dictionary where you can get additional data on the various mycotoxins. I will list some of those that are considered to be a possible health problem here: aflatoxin, chaetosin, citrinin, deoxynivalinol, ergot alkaloids, gliotoxin, ochratoxin, patulin, fumonisin, trichothecene, and zearalenonem, walleminol
Mycotoxins can be hazardous to anyone but to the genetically susceptible mycotoxins are particularly dangerous. Ongoing exposure to mycotoxins can make these people very ill.
Mycotoxins in the body may be the result of external exposure to molds or internal, colonizing fungal organisms. They are generally found intracellularly and may be stored in body fat, myelin, organs and other body sites. They can cause many different types of symptoms.
The fate of a mycotoxin in the body depends upon its intestinal biotransformation and the extent and rate of its absorption from the gastrointestinal tract, distribution, its binding or localization in tissues such as storage in fat or bone, its biotransformation in the liver and other tissues, and its excretion processes including enterohepatorecirculation. Mycotoxins can have both acute and long term effects.
Most research on mycotoxins is on animals ingesting mycotoxins in food. The various sensitivity of animals to mycotoxins is due to a variety of factors that include species, breed, sex, physiology, age, nutrition, health or disease, as well as environmental factors.
Data obtained in the last three decades has given a better understanding of biotransformation pathways of mycotoxins and their consequences in terms of metabolites occurring in animal-derived food products. More recently, society has become aware that mycotoxins are a major problem in human food also. Both masked and unmasked mycotoxins.
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