Aflatoxins are naturally occurring secondary fungal metabolites that are produced by two species of fungus Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus parasiticus that are found naturally all over the world. They can contaminate food crops and pose a serious health threat to humans and livestock. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimated that 25% of the world’s crops are contaminated with aflatoxins
Discovery of Aflatoxins
Aflatoxins were discovered in 1960s when more than 100,000 young turkeys died in England over the course of a few months from an apparently new disease that was termed Turkey-X disease. It was soon found that the mortality was not limited to turkeys. Ducklings and young pheasants were also affected. After a careful survey of the outbreaks, the disease was found to be associated with the Brazilian groundnut meal. An intensive study of groundnut meal revealed its toxic nature as it produced typical symptoms of Turkey-X disease when consumed by poultry and ducklings. A study on the nature of the toxin suggested its origin from the fungus Aspergillus flavus. Thus, the toxin was named “aflatoxin” by virtue of its origin from Aspergillus flavus.
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