To address any problem, you need to identify the cause. Since mycotoxins are invisible, toxic compounds, this task falls on various analytical methods.
There are 3 main dection methods of mycotoxins that Alltech employs. This arsenal includes:
- Rapid tests, such as the hand-held AccuScan® Gold,
- The Neogen Raptor® Integrated Analysis Platform and
- The Alltech 37+® mycotoxin analysis, an LCMS (Liquid Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry) method carried out in our designated mycotoxin testing laboratory.
Each detection method can quantify mycotoxins and has particular strengths:
The hand-held AccuScan Gold allows for instant onsite detection of mycotoxins. Units like these are often the first line of defence against mycotoxins and provide feed mills, suppliers and farmers with the ability to find suspected issues at the source, 24 hours a day. Portable hand-held units have parts per million (ppm) to high parts per billion (ppb) detection limits and can be used for different matrices. Portable units are not as sensitive as an LCMS method but are perfect for initial detection. If problems are found, samples can then be sent for a more thorough investigation, like Alltech 37+, which is described in more detail below.
The 2nd method for testing mycotoxins utilised by Alltech is the Raptor Integrated Analysis Platform from Neogen. This method uses lateral flow test strips to quantify specific mycotoxins that are present. Again, this is a relatively quick testing method, but more attention needs to be given to sample preparation. Samples need to be dried, ground, weighed, in some cases, have the pH adjusted and be mixed with an extraction solution prior to analysis. Aside from the sample preparation, the analysis is less than 10 minutes per mycotoxin test. The Raptor reader can quantify 3 different mycotoxins simultaneously and can do this in triplicate. As soon as the sample is added, the Raptor reader will automatically begin the analysis of each sample and provide a countdown timer to the final result. Once complete, the results are presented on the Raptor digital display. Currently, test kits are available for aflatoxin, ochratoxin, zearalenone, deoxynivalenol (DON), T2/HT-2 toxins and fumonisin. That being said, Neogen is continuously developing new test kits for the Raptor unit, with an ergots test kit just recently being released. While the sensitivity is better than a hand-held unit, it is still less sensitive than an LCMS method. Our sales team regularly utilises these units in the field as they can be easily transported to our customers and give a comprehensive quantification of mycotoxins.
Neogen’s Raptor Integrated Analysis Platform is an integral part of Alltech Rapiread™ – our integrated system of tools that provides the ultimate protection from the threat of mycotoxins. Alltech Rapiread uses a mobile app for iPhones, as well as your PC, that takes the results from the Raptor reader and incorporates them into a cloud database. Tests can be submitted, and results viewed, at the tap of a screen within just 30 minutes.
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The third method for mycotoxin determination is LCMS. This is the gold standard when it comes to mycotoxin analysis. It has a 3-dimensional approach of separation based on the different retention times, molecular weight (m/z) and structural fragmentation of each compound.
- First, mycotoxin compounds are separated by liquid chromatography, thus resulting in different elution times.
- Then the compounds are sent to the mass spectrometer, where they meet the first of 2 mass analysers. The first mass analyser acts as a filter and only allows compounds of a certain mass through. For example, if we set it to a mass of 313 m/z, it will only let aflatoxin through, whereas another mycotoxin, like DON, with a mass of 297 m/z would not progress. This is what makes LCMS so powerful; it allows control over interfering peaks by removing them, which helps its specificity, selectivity and sensitivity. The selected mycotoxin continues to a collision cell, which fragments the compound into its components. These fragments act as a fingerprint for each mycotoxin.
- Upon reaching the final mass analyser, individual fragments can be filtered again. This profile provides the confirmation of the mycotoxin presence since each compound will fragment in unique ways. Certain chemical bonds in the compound’s structure will break before others. This is all due to electronegativity and bond strength chemistry. Therefore, not only can LCMS determine the total amount of aflatoxin present, but it can also determine whether the total is made up of aflatoxin B1, B2, G1 or G2 and in what quantities and ratio.
To summarise, different mycotoxin compounds will have different fragmentation profiles, which can be used to confirm the presence and quantity of the mycotoxin in question.
The Alltech 37+ mycotoxin analytical services laboratory
The Alltech 37+ lab is an ISO-accredited mycotoxin testing facility. The sole purpose of the lab is to quantify mycotoxins for our customers, feed mills and farmers. Alltech invested in LCMS technology to achieve accurate determination of mycotoxins with the highest level of sensitivity. The LCMS method employed in the lab was peer reviewed and published, thus showing the commitment and confidence in our method. The lab currently quantifies 54 mycotoxins in each sample, and great care is taken during sample preparation to ensure no mycotoxins are lost. This includes the use of C13 internal standards and drying the samples with freeze-dryer technology to ensure they remain in their original state and are not degraded or damaged by heat.
Alltech has 3 of these laboratories.
- In our headquarters in Kentucky, providing analysis for North and South America.
- Our Irish facility, based in our European headquarters in Dunboyne, Ireland, supports the EU, Africa, Asia and Australia/New Zealand.
- Finally, we also have a facility in China to support the ever-expanding Chinese market.
Dr Patrick Ward, Alltech Global Technical Manager