Document Type: Review Article
Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, Faculty of Pharmacy, Urmia University of Medical Sciences, Urmia, Iran
Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands
Molds and mycotoxins are contaminants of animal feed causing spoilage and clinical intoxication. Animal exposure to mycotoxins reflects diet composition with major differences occurring between animals kept predominantly of pastures, i.e. ruminants and horses, and those consuming formulated feed like pigs and poultry. Mixed feeds are composed of several ingredients, often sourced from different continents. Subsequently, practitioners may confront endemic diseases and signs of toxin exposure related to toxins imported accidentally with contaminated feed materials from other countries and continents. Mycotoxins comprise more than 300 to 400 different chemicals causing a variety of clinical symptoms. Mycotoxin exposure causes major economic losses due to reduced performance, impaired feed conversion and fertility, and increased susceptibility to environmental stress and infectious diseases. In acute cases, clinical symptoms following mycotoxin ingestion are often non-specific, hindering an immediate diagnosis. Furthermore, most mold species produce more than one toxin, and feed commodities are regularly contaminated with various mold species resulting in complex mixtures of toxins in formulated feeds. The effects of these different toxins may be additive, depending on the level and time of exposure, and the intensity of the clinical symptoms based on age, health, and nutritional status of the exposed animal(s). Threshold levels of toxicity are difficult to define and discrepancies between analytical data and clinical symptoms are common in daily practice. This review aims to provide an overview of Aspergillus and Penicillium toxins that are frequently found in feed commodities and discusses their effects on animal health and productivity.