Fumonisins are a group of recently discovered mycotoxins which belong to the family of Fusarium toxins. The contamination of feedstuffs with mycotoxins poses a serious threat to the health and productivity of animals and cause great economic losses. In the US, annual losses caused by mycotoxins in grain production are estimated at US$900 million. Dependent on type of animal, gender, age as well as the nutritional and health condition of the animal, fumonisins cause different clinical symptoms. Additionally, the occurrence of several mycotoxins in feed is very likely and can amplify the toxic effects of the individual toxin (synergistic effect).
Fumonisins are mainly produced by Fusarium verticillioides (syn. moniliforme) as well as by Fusarium proliferatum and they occur predominately in corn and corn-based feeds. In 1988 they were first identified and isolated and so far there are 28 fumonisin analogues known.
Fumonisins are divided into four groups: Serial A, B, C and G. With regard to their toxicity the B-type fumonisins represent the most important ones. In naturally contaminated food and feed fumonisin B1 represents about 70-80 percent of the total fumonisin content.
Fumonisins are very polar and water soluble compounds. Unlike other mycotoxins they have a long chain structure. Chemically they are polyhydroxyl alkylamines esterified with two carbon acids, i.e. tricarballylic acid (TCA). The four common members of the type B fumonisins differ by presence and position of the free hydroxyl groups respectively. The one-sided or bilateral elimination of TCA results in partial hydrolysed fumonisin or hydrolysed fumonisin (HFB1).
Fungal colonisation and growth and/or mycotoxin production are influenced by a variety of factors. Optimum conditions for fumonisin production are temperatures between 10-30 degrees Celsius with a water activity (amount of free available water) of 0.93 aw.
A recently published survey about the occurrence of mycotoxins in Asia initiated by Biomin GmbH together with Romer laboratories in Singapore reported that 58 percent out of 678 feed raw material samples were contaminated with fumonisins. The highest level of fumonisins detected was 14.7 mg/kg in a corn sample from China. In Europe, the maximum level of fumonisin was 3.1 mg/kg in a sample of soymeal from Southern Europe.
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Article made possible through the contribution of Biomin.