Determination of exposure of humans to selected mycotoxins with particular reference to aflatoxins.
Early, Deborah Angeline.
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Mycotoxins are poisonous secondary metabolites commonly produced by fungi and are involved in human disease conditions known as mycotoxicoses. There is evidence to show that food eaten by the rural Black population of Southern Africa is contaminated with mycotoxins. A tenuous relationship exists between the occurrence of mycotoxins in foods and certain disease conditions in humans. In order to verify this relationship, efforts have, in the past, been made to detect mycotoxins and their metabolites in physiological fluids and tissues. The difficulty with this approach is that mycotoxins in the body have short half lives, being rapidly excreted or metabolised to other forms. More recently it has been shown that aflatoxin B1, as its activated epoxide, can conjugate with macromolecules such as nucleic acids and proteins. These survive for much longer than the free toxins and by suitable methods can be isolated and measured. This allows for a much better estimate of exposure of the individual to aflatoxin. This study reviews and evaluates screening methods for the detection and analysis of mycotoxin contamination in rural foodstuffs such as maize and groundnuts. Methods for the production of aflatoxin-lysine and protein adducts are motivated and developed then used in the identification of naturally occurring adducts in humans. Isolation and quantitative analysis techniques are proposed to routinely screen patients for evidence of aflatoxin exposure.