Public health policy for preventing aflatoxin exposure

The aflatoxin producing fungi, Aspergillus spp, are widely spread in nature and have severely contaminated food supplies of humans and animals, resulting in health hazards and even death.

Public health policy for preventing aflatoxin exposure

Therefore, there is great demand for aflatoxins research to develop suitable methods for their quantification, precise detection and control to ensure the safety of consumers’ health.

This article focuses on resources, production and control measures of aflatoxins to ensure food and feed safety. This is informative for health-conscious consumers and research experts in the fields.

Furthermore, providing knowledge on aflatoxins toxicity will help in ensure food safety and meet the future demands of the increasing population by decreasing the incidence of outbreaks due to aflatoxins.

Factors responsible for aflatoxin production:

Aflatoxins are mainly produced by Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus parasiticus. Three major factors which are involved in the production of aflatoxins on the food crops are stress, high humidity and high environmental temperature.

The weather in tropical countries in the most part of the year is hot and humid so aflatoxin production is a continuous process in tropical countries.

How human get exposed to aflatoxins?

Aflatoxins can reach to the body of human by two ways, directly by consumption of aflatoxin contaminated food crops or indirectly by the consumption of meat and milk which contain the aflatoxin residues.

Aflatoxins enters in the poultry meat, beef and milk when the aflatoxins contaminated feeds are consumed by poultry and ruminants and when the products of these animals are consumed by human then these toxins enter the human body.

Effects of aflatoxins on human body:

Aflatoxin are specifically target the liver. Early symptoms of hepatotoxicity of liver caused by aflatoxins comprise fever, malaise and anorexia followed with abdominal pain, vomiting, and hepatitis; however, cases of acute poisoning are exceptional and rare. Chronic toxicity by aflatoxins comprises immunosuppressive and carcinogenic effects.

AFT-B1 reduced anti-inflammatory cytokine IL-4 expression, but increased the pro-inflammatory cytokine IFN-γ and TNF-α expression by NK cells. This   indicates that frequent AFT-B1 exposure accelerates inflammatory responses via regulation of cytokine gene expression.

AFT-B1 interrupts the process of antigen-presenting capacity of dendritic cells, suggested this perhaps one of mechanism of immunotoxicity by AFT-B1.

Management and control strategies:

There are three approaches to control the aflatoxins, physical, chemical and biological methods.

Physical methods (physical separation of aflatoxin contaminated grains and heating the contaminated grains etc.) have some disadvantages like these methods cannot be used at large scale.

Chemical methods include use of different chemicals to the aflatoxins also have some disadvantages, they can reduce the digestibility and palatability of the product.

So, now a day the use of biological agents to control the aflatoxicosis is the best choice. In the biological methods nonpathogenic bacteria, fungi, yeast and algae are used to degrade the aflatoxins. After the degradation aflatoxins lose their ability to damage the body.

Good agricultural practices (GAPs) also help control to the toxins to a larger extent, such as timely planting, providing adequate plant nutrition, controlling weeds, and crop rotation, which effectively control A. flavus and Aspergillus parasiticus infection in the field.

Some scientists are working to develop the aspergillus resistant seeds so that these aflatoxins producing fungi cannot grow on the food crops but still this will take much time.

Authors: Ashiq Ali*1, Aisha Khatoon1, Zain- Ul- Abidin2.

1 Department of Pathology, Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Agriculture Faisalabad, Pakistan.

2 Veterinary Reseach Institute, Lahore, Pakistan.

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