Knowledge bases

Knowledge of mycotoxins varies widely depending on the disciplinary or functional role of the institution. In most cases the driving force is the level of aflatoxin allowed by regulations in grain destined for human or animal consumption. For humans, where regulations are enforced, which usually also is where a medical research agenda has been established, the regulatory levels are set to address cumulative risks. In contrast, the levels for animal feeds are set just below the threshold for acute toxicities, so veterinary scientists usually have more experience and knowledge of the chronic toxicities of aflatoxin. In 2005, a literature search with Google Scholarâ„¢ using the keywords aflatoxin and cancer found 6,900 references, mostly in journals of human medicine, while a similar search on aflatoxin and immunity generates only 860 references, mostly in the veterinary literature. The importance of this difference in focus is critical for developing countries since an often unstated assumption is that exposure levels are consistent for humans in all locations worldwide. Unfortunately, the increased exposure in developing countries may mean that the animal data and knowledge may be more appropriate to the developing country situation than is the human-based but cancer-focused research. On a global scale, liver cancer is responsible for some 560,000 deaths each year and aflatoxin is not the only factor contributing to its incidence. Therefore aflatoxin does not make the WHO priority list (Rodgers et al., 2002). This mortality is compared with some 50 million deaths attributed to infectious diseases, e.g., HIV ~5 million and malaria ~3 million. If the animal-based reports of immunity and nutritional impact also apply to humans; however, then aflatoxin is contributing to suppressed immunity and poorer nutrition and is a modulating factor for infectious diseases thereby assuming a very different role in the world's health picture.

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