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Don links rise in cancer, infertility, others to mycotoxins




Reestablishes association between extreme poverty, aflatoxin consumption. Alerts over emerging antifungal resistance 

A biotechnologist and Dean School of Basic and Applied Sciences Babcock University, Ilishan Remo, Ogun state, Prof. Dele Fapohunda, has linked the rising cases of cancer, compromised immune system, infertility and reproductive problems and sudden deaths to high consumption of mycotoxin.

Fapohunda, who is also an ardent advocate of safe foods and the Founder and President, Safe Food and Feed Foundation, has also reestablished the association between extreme poverty and aflatoxin contamination and consumption.

Fapohunda at the 4th Inaugural lecture of Babcock University held last Thursday said: “… The risks associated with mycotoxins consumption may include cancer, compromised immune system and reproductive malfunctioning.

At the Aspen Cancer Conference in 2001, reports on aflatoxin exposure and incidence of liver cancer in places like China and West African countries were alarming.

The Stockholm convention on Persistent Organic chemicals described aflatoxin as the most potent non-radiation, carcinogen known to man.

“Some countries like India and Kenya had experienced deaths arising from chronic intoxication through aflatoxin contaminated meals and in 2006 there were reports of an outbreak of aflatoxicosis that resulted in mortalities in Kenya.

On the agricultural plane, the consumption of mould contaminated grains significantly depressed growth rates and results in harmful metabolic changes that reduce the productivity of broiler and laying chickens, pigs and dairy cattle.

They are therefore called ‘hidden killers’ which regularly attract informed attention from experts, farmers and other stakeholders…” The Inaugural Lecture is titled “ONE KINGDOM, MANY KINGS: The fungi—once side-lined and maligned, now irrepressible and irresistible.”

What are mycotoxins? The biotechnologist said: “These are chemicals (secondary metabolites) produced by some moulds that could slip into the food chain to endanger public health directly through targets like groundnuts, sauces, maize, wheat and wheat products, beans, cocoa, coffee, oilseeds, nuts, fruits and their juices, beverages (wine and beer) and indirectly through foods obtained from animals given diet already contaminated.

These can include milk and its derivatives, as well as fresh and cured pork.” Aflatoxins are a type of mycotoxin produced by Aspergillus species of fungi, such as A. flavus and A. parasiticus.

The umbrella term aflatoxin refers to four different types of mycotoxins produced, which are B1, B2, G1, and G2. Aflatoxin B1, the most toxic, is a potent carcinogen and has been directly correlated to adverse health effects, such as liver cancer, in many animal species.

Aflatoxins are largely associated with commodities produced in the tropics and subtropics, such as cotton, peanuts, spices, pistachios and maize.

The Dean School of Basic and Applied Sciences Babcock University said a general overview of the link among man, mycotoxins and meals was carried out in 2007 after an earlier focus on aflatoxin and followed up by the health impacts.

He explained: “We have traced ascribed aflatoxin to the induction of cell and organ abnormalities in both rats and mice. In the experiments, sperm cell abnormalities were observed.

This implies that aflatoxin attacks both vegetative and reproductive targets in mammals. “ Due to their serious health impacts particularly on countries with high poverty rating, the International Congress on ‘Mycotoxins and Cancer’ will be held from December 2 to 4, 2015 in Marrakesh, Morocco.

“Mycotoxin profile of street vended snacks, animal feed, millet and sesame, groundnut and maize based snacks, random vended snacks, pepper, melon seeds and mammalian blood status after dietary toxin contaminant were all investigated and reported by our team.

Morbidities recorded in broiler fed dietary aflatoxin were very alarming. Aflatoxin- mediated sperm abnormalities in mice were reported earlier.

“In the Federal Capital Territory, a surveillance outing on five crops in the six area councils exposed the prevalence of emergent mycotoxins, not hitherto recorded in Nigeria, but whose combination and interaction in consumed Sorghum, could engender danger.”

Fapohunda said the alarming low level of awareness on mycotoxins by local commodity traders and farmers in Nigeria is a source for worry, in that even when grains are glaringly damaged and mouldy, the reality of cheapness over undamaged ones translates to an automatic high exposure rate of the toxins to the low income sector of the population and the attendant lethal repercussion.

He said when a situation of ignorance is combined with poverty and food challenge, where government regulations are not enforced or non-existent, the result is an endemic continental scandal that ought to attract the immediate attention of the United Nations.

Fapohunda said emerging and re emerging zygomycoses have now necessitated the shift toward antifungal resistance. Zygomycosis is the broadest term to refer to infections caused by bread mold fungi of the zygomycota phylum.

The biotechnologist said just like antibiotics, some fungi no longer respond to antifungal medications. He said the general azole resistance in Aspergillus -initiated human diseases and specifically the fluconazole resistance in Candida is subjects of concern.

Fapohunda said although some reliable explanations have been given for azole resistance, the mechanism in polyene and echinocandins is not yet conclusive. He further explained: “Unlike in bacteria there is an absence of drug resistant plasmid and transposons in moulds although the prospect of horizontal gene transfer in Fusarium species has recently heightened passion for further research in this regard.

“Of recent, a new strain, Cryptococcus gatti, an airborne, extremely rare hyper virulent fungus, earlier noticed in Australia and South America, has just been discovered to cause severe brain and lung infections and has resulted in many deaths in the United States. With the global impact of climate change, its likely spread to Africa is now a source of worry.

The conduct of some micro fungi could be very strange as to attract inordinate attention and scrutiny. For example the mysterious caterpillar fungus, Ophiocordyceps sinensis has the ability to take over and control the host’s metabolic activities by arresting its brain.

In so doing, it produces bioactive compounds to sustain it function.” What are the solutions? Fapohunda said the control and preventive measures include Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) and Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) and the use of toxin binders, which are combined with an array of some physical and chemical steps.

He said the Hazard Analysis Risk-Based Preventive Control (HARPC) an enhanced model of Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) is also a recent attractive approach and that some chemical methods like the use of clay-based products have proved impractical on poultry diets.

Fapohunda also revealed that the North East and North Central geopolitical zones are flashpoints of aflatoxin contamination and by extension loss (pecuniary terms) in health status among the population.

He further explained: The biotechnologist has also proposed model for mycotoxin management in sub Saharan Africa: *A=Enlightenment/Awareness Campaign (in local languages through jingles, posters, handbills, regular meetings with farmer and commodity traders.

Government and food and feed -safety activists example MSN will facilitate this. *B=Regulations and standards, including monitoring compliance (assistance /extension service to farmers and exporters). Government will facilitate the arrest of lax regulations.

*C=Capacity building. (Involving globally validated procedures for detection/analysis, user-friendly management techniques) This is to be facilitated by Government; international bodies example universities, research institutes, European Union (EU), United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA); food and feed safety activists.

*D=Good practices involving agricultural, manufacturing, cultural like winnowing, and physical sorting). Farmers and the manufacturing industry will facilitate this in conjunction with government and food and feed safety activists.

Fapohunda said all these are essentially interrelated and call for a synergy in the effort of national governments, relevant mycotoxin non-governmental bodies and international agencies.

He said the option of prevention is recommended in a way that end users will always express conscious willingness to execute. The food safety expert recommended among other things: 1. The setting up of a mycological culture collection centre in Nigeria. Proper identification confers credibility on mycological research.

At present, mycological specimens are reliably identified from outside Nigeria. 2. A Mycotoxin Policy. The policy is expected to encompass standard mycotoxin research laboratories with validated equipment and personnel, regular capacity building, intensive extension and consumer awareness services.

Fapohunda said the Kenyan government, in 2014, opened a new, modern laboratory facility, which will enable researchers to accelerate cutting-edge solutions to aflatoxin contamination. He further explained: “The policy will also take care of tight biosecurity controls.

Countries in Africa are now facing stark reality of the situation at hand. Interestingly both Kenya and Nigeria took a giant stride in January 2015. In its first cabinet meeting of the year, 2015 the government of Kenya has allocated 1.5 billion Kenyan Shillings to fight the aflatoxin problem in the country.

“Also in January this same year the Federal government inaugurated two committees- the Inter Ministerial Committee on Food Safety and the National Food Safety management committee.

Food is a very important candidate in human needs. Happily both the 10-point Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which wind down this year 2015 and the proposed replacement-a 17-point Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) recognize wholesome consumption as a way out of poverty.”

The biotechnologist said the prevalence of fungi having the potentials for toxigenicity heightens the resolve to come up with a mycotoxin policy in Nigeria.

“When the EU continuously reject some Nigerian agricultural commodities like melon, peanuts and ogbono then it became clear that the country has been getting a few things wrong.

The gravity and persistence of this problem underscored the invitation by the European Mycotoxin Awareness Network (EMAN) to present a commissioned paper on aflatoxin in Sub Saharan Africa. Right now, Nigeria has adopted the EU standards regarding total aflatoxins and aflatoxin B1,” he said.

Classification keeps changing as more revelations are made and more fungi are sequenced. Due to the benefits of molecular phylogeny, and with the available ever-changing research methods, all fungi are now properly placed.

However as at date, and until 2017, when the next meeting of the Congress shall take place to consider any new development regarding the status of members of the kingdom, the following phyla/divisions shall be in operation in the kingdom Fungi… “The meeting also confirmed the adoption of ‘one fungus, one name’ principle.

“We have traced ascribed aflatoxin to the induction of cell and organ abnormalities in both rats and mice. In the experiments, sperm cell abnormalities were observed. This implies that aflatoxin attacks both vegetative and reproductive targets in mammals. “ Due to their serious health impacts particularly on countries with high poverty rating, the International Congress on ‘Mycotoxins and Cancer’ will be held from December 2 to 4, 2015 in Marrakesh, Morocco.”

This means that the erstwhile easy maneuver from, for example, Aspergillus to Eurotium is no longer allowed. The step guarantees that the names to use in these cases will be covered through protected lists of names now being developed, but generally the earliest name will be used unless the later one is much better known.

“Before now, kindly recall, Article 5a of the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature approved one name for an asexual reproductive fungus (anamorph) and another for its sexual phase (teleomorph). With this development, all names can now compete for relevance and priority irrespective of the stage being referred to.

“Another fundamental shift in fungal systematics is that Latin is no longer an exclusive language for validation. English is now added for names published on or after Jan 1, 2013.

These are all critical decisions of epic proportions. Some of the shifts have nullified rules that were in place for decades. One important question is: will the inclusion of English language be out of sync with or totally frustrate the reason of fixity and centrality earlier associated with latinization of names as enshrined in the codes of nomenclature? I don t think so.

Scientists will have to move along with new realities, while being guided by the rule of law in the kingdom.”

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