What are mycotoxins ?

Mycotoxin is derived from two words

“Mykes” means – Mould

“Toxicum” means – Poison

Mycotoxins are secondary metabolites produced by fungi or we can also say that mycotoxins are by products of fungi. These metabolites are very harmful to poultery even in lowest levels. We measure mycotoxin levels in parts per billion (ppb). These toxins produce in crop durin pre-harvest or on harvesting. After harvesting these toxins may also produced in storage if the storage conditions do not meet properly. According to Food and Agriculture Organization of United States 25 world’s grain supply affected with mycotoxins. Due to the presence of these mycotoxins about one billion metric tonns of food is lost world wide. Mycotoxins first discovered during world war second. When russian soldiers were affected by consuming mouldy grains. In 1960 the effects of mycotoxins on human liver were also observed in Turkey. Later on the disease name was changed to “Turkey X Disease”.

Types of Mycotoxins

There are over 500 different kinds of mycotoxins but mostly investigating and notorious in poultry are follwings.

1- Aflatoxin B1 (AFB1)

2- Ochratoxin A (OTA)

3- Zearalenone (ZEA)

4- Deoxynivalinol  (DON)

5- Fumonisin B1 (FB1)

6- T – 2 toxin

7- Trichothecence

These toxins are produced by fungi (penicillium/ aspergellus/ fusarium). Aflatoxin and Ochratoxin are also known as “storage toxins” because they produce during storage of feed or feed ingredients. While the other types of toxins are field toxins and produce in crops before harvesting, during harvesting or processing due to unfavourable conditions.

Co-contamination of Mycotoxins

It is considered that there is a perticular level of mycotoxins in poultry feed which is safe for birds. But there is no safe level of mycotoxins in poultry feed even the feed analysis report shows very low level of individual mycotoxin. Co-contamination of mycotoxins in poultry feed is very common. These mycotoxins create synergisitc effect while damaging the organs of the birds. According to research about 40 % of commercial feeds in Pakistan contaminated with Aflatoxins. Degree of harm-fullness of mycotoxins is depend upon the species of birds, age of birds and health status of the birds. Mostly younger birds are susceptible to mycotoxins. Because their immune system is not fully developed and poor managemetal conditions may also leads to them towards susceptibility to mycotoxins as compare to older birds.

Major Effects of Mycotoxins In Poultry

1- They suppress the immune system

2- Reduce Feed Intake

3- Reduce weight gain

According to research the presence of Aflatoxins and Ochratoxins in poultry feeds reduce feed intake by 12 % and weight gain by 14 %.

4- Increase mortality

Mortality in broilers fed diet contaminated with Deoxynivalenol was 9 times and in broilers fed with diet contaminatd with Aflatoxin was 3 times more than normal.

5- Digestive tract problems

6- Poor nutrient absorption

7- Reduce egg production

8- Reduce egg and egg shell quality

9- Reduce hatchability

10- Delay sexual maturity

11- Diarrhea

12- Bone problems

13- Hepatotoxicity

14- Nephrotoxicity

15- Neurotoxicity

16- Genotoxicity


References: (Awad et al., 2013), (Andretta et al., 2011), (Saeed et al., 2009), (Rehman 2005) (Rizvi et al., 1990)