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Mycotoxin analysis helps to understand the problem

Mycotoxins in feed are known for damaging the immune status and performance of animals. The main challenge for livestock producers is to find the key to avoid suffering from these disastrous effects. But how do you know about the presence of mycotoxins and how do you interpret test results to implement preventive (or curative) strategies?

By Erwan Leroux, product manager, Neovia Additives, Vannes, France

Looking for mycotoxins is as difficult as looking for "one second in 32 years"! Indeed mycotoxins are expressed in parts per billion, so called "ppb" (0,000000001), whereas, as a comparison, proteins are expressed in percentage (0.01), and vitamins in parts per thousand (0.001). Even at this low concentration mycotoxins may cause immune suppression and show depressive effects on animal performance. This may result from a contamination with various mycotoxins which express toxic synergies. For that reason, methods of analysis must be precise and reliable.

There are different methods to analyse mycotoxins, such as: Strip method, Elisa kit (Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay kit), High-Performance Liquid Chromatography (HLPC) and Gas Chromatography (GC) that can be coupled with Mass Spectrometry (MS) as a detection method.

The Elisa method is maybe the most widespread globally as it can be used by feed millers in their in-house laboratory. Unfortunately, they are only developed for the most prominent mycotoxins (less than 10 mycotoxins analysed) and they generally give a scale of contamination only.

The strip method gives a qualitative quick result which may help to identify (yes/no) in the field, the presence of mycotoxins. However they are not developed for all toxins or all kinds of substrate. As strips target only one single mycotoxin, it is necessary to know which of the many mycotoxins has to be analysed. And that is often the key question! Are there mycotoxins and which ones generate problems on farm?

Method of choice

After having screened different existing methods, Neovia uses the chromatography method, the only one able to give a precise dosage at such a low concentration, for the largest spectrum of mycotoxins. Working for five years with an independent laboratory, using HPLC and/or GC methods coupled with MS analysis, Neovia analyses 43 mycotoxins and metabolites of mycotoxins at ppb or ppt (parts per trillion) precision. This analysing method is certified by COFRAC (Comité Français d'Accréditation) and can be applied to various raw materials, including silages, complete feed, and even blood and organs.

Relying on experiences encountered in more than 50 countries over the last decade, Neovia experts established a personal plan of action. It is taking into account your production practices, the species you are dealing with, your  localisation, and so on.

Why analysing 43 mycotoxins?

The most famous mycotoxins, Aflatoxin B1, Ochratoxin A, Fumonisin B1, Zearalenone, Deoxynivalenol and T-2 toxin are known to be powerful. However literature shows that their metabolites or masked mycotoxins can be even more toxic. A few examples can illustrate this in concrete terms:

  1. Fumonisin B2, Fumonisin B3 and Fumonisin B4 have a conformation and effects similar to the ones of Fumonisin B1. However, the toxic intensity of each of these molecules depends on the animal species. For poultry these molecules can be ranged as following, from the more toxic to less: Fumosin B1 > Fumonisin B2 > Fumonisin B3 = Fumonisin B4. This example can be duplicated for the Aflatoxin family (14 molecules), Ochratoxin family (five molecules) and the Zearalenone family (five molecules).
  2. Deoxynivalenol (DON) and T-2 Toxin are part of the mycotoxin family called trichothecenes. In this group of molecules there are already more than 170 different mycotoxins identified. Each of them has its proper toxicity potential: for poultry, Neosolaniol and Diacetoxyscirpenol are respectively six and 56 times more toxic than DON, for ruminants 15-acetoxy-scirpenol is 3.3 times more powerful than DON. For pigs T-2 is approximately, according to the stage of the animals, 15 times more toxic than DON. In north-west Europe, DON is the main mycotoxin analysed in wheat and corn, but according to Neovia analysis, in more than 80% of the samples one may also find Nivalenol, which is more toxic than DON for all species. Moreover, Nivalenol contaminations often make the raw material or feed be potentially toxic for animals, whereas the DON level of contamination can be estimated as not dangerous. Thus to get a complete overview of the trichothecenes risk, it is necessary to go further than DON and T-2 toxin analysis.
  3. Apart from the main five mycotoxin families, less "famous" ones may also strongly impact the global mycotoxin risk. Take for example Monoliformin, which has an important effect on the heart of poultry species, Ergot alcaloids which impairs ruminants performance (ingestion, milk production) or Tenuazonic acid which affects digestion in all species (found in more than 50% of the Ukrainian cereals).

Finally the plan of action set up by the Neovia team, resulting from analysis of 43 mycotoxins, and taking into account the specific breeding conditions, aims at managing mycotoxin risk. It may include recommendations on the storage of raw materials and feeds. The diagnosis is individualised and is adapted to the animal species, their age, and health status of the farm. The method proved that the counteracting mycotoxin action is profitable for farmers. Numerous trial data showed that it pays off to properly investigate the presence of mycotoxins and to analyse which one is present. Therefore it can be concluded that analysing is one thing, but knowing how to interpret the information and taking the right decision is better!

[Source: Mycotoxin Special]


  • Mycotoxin analysis helps to understand the problem

Erwan Leroux

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