Controversies in fumonisin mycotoxicology and risk assessment

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Fusarium verticillioides causes several animal diseases and the contamination maize suggests that it could adversely affect human health. The fumonisin B mycotoxins were characterized from the fungal culture material and shown to be the causative principle responsible for the major mycotoxicological effects of the fungus in experimental and farm animals. The main focus was on the toxicological effects in rats and mice, the outcome of which played an important role in setting risk assessment parameters for exposure of the fumonisins to humans. The International Agency for Research on Cancer characterized the fumonisins as Group 2B carcinogens. Several controversial findings regarding the toxicological effects of the culture material of the fungus, the genotoxicity and carcinogenicity of pure fumonisin B1 (FB1) in rats have been reported that should be clarified prior to assessing the risk in humans. The underlying differences between the diets with the high protein levels are likely to sensitize the kidneys to FB1-induced toxic and carcinogenic effects. Several other dietary factors, such as plant extracts (antioxidants) and dietary Fe, could either stimulate or inhibit cancer induction of FB1, which complicates the comparison of toxicological effects in experimental animals. Cognisance should be taken of the modulating role of dietary constituents as it will determine the outcome of toxicological assays and determine the threshold of an adverse effect in a specific target organ to be used in determining risk assessment parameters.

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