Mycotoxins in humans living in West and Central African countries

Further evidence of exposure to mycotoxins by sections of the populations in West African countries has been obtained through the detection of mycotoxins in breast-milk and other body fluids of people in Burkina Faso, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Nigeria and Sierra Leone.

Studies in The Gambia have reported aflatoxins in sera from umbilical cord, maternal venous blood and breast-milk (Wild et al., 1991; Zarba et al., 1992; Miele et al., 1996). Thirty-two of 35 individuals were positive for aflatoxin-albumin adducts (Miele et al., 1996). In eastern Gambia, samples of sera from umbilical cord and maternal venous blood from 30 pregnant women were assayed for the aflatoxin-albumin adducts. Twenty-nine venous blood and 21 cord sera were positive for aflatoxin-albumin adducts (Wild et al., 1991). Aflatoxin M1 was identified in breast-milk of five subjects by using a preparative monoclonal antibody immunoaffinity column/HPLC method. Aflatoxin G1 was found in 3/5 women (Zarba et al, 1992). In a third study in The Gambia (Turner et al., 2000), sera from 444 children aged 3-4 years was analyzed for aflatoxin-albumin adducts. Adduct levels ranged from 2.2 to 460 pg AF-lysine eq/mg albumin with a strong association between high AF-albumin adduct levels and acute HBV infection.

In Accra, Ghana, aflatoxins were detected in 32% of the breast milk and in 31% of the cord blood samples (Maxwell et al, 1989). Earlier studies of the pathological effects of aflatoxins found that aflatoxins were present in liver samples from children who died of kwashiorkor (Apeagyei et al, 1986). Further studies of toxin levels in serum, urine and fecal specimens of a group of 40 apparently healthy Ghanaian adults found that aflatoxins G1 and B1 and aflatoxins Q1 and M1, both metabolites of aflatoxin B1, were present in one or more of the specimens from 35% of the subjects. Twenty-six of the 40 subjects had only aflatoxin G1, in their specimens (Ankrah et al, 1994).

Only one study was reported in Guinea. Of 75 blood serum samples from men living in Kindia (lower Guinea) analyzed for aflatoxin bound to serum albumin, > 90% of the sam-

ples contained detectably high levels for adults. The highest level was equivalent to 360 pg aflatoxin-lysine per mg of albumin. Eleven of these patients also were positive for hepatitis B and eight were positive for hepatitis C (Diallo and Wild, 1995).

Of 161 human urine samples collected in Lagos, Nigeria, aflatoxin B2a was detected in 33% of the samples, Bi in 3.1%, Mi in 8.7%, Gi in 9.9% and L in 9.3% of the samples (Bean et al., 1989). Aflatoxin G1 was present at the highest mean concentration of 12 ng/100 ml urine. In another study of human serum involving residents of Nigeria, Nepal and the United Kingdom, aflatoxins were detected in 76% of the Nigerian residents, from all of the Nepalese residents, and from none of the UK residents (Wilkinson et al., 1989).

In Sierra Leone, 54 urine samples from children < 5 years of age (Jonsyn, 1999) were all contaminated with aflatoxins and 24% and 20%, respectively, also were contaminated with ochratoxin A and ochratoxin B. For serum, 94% of the samples contained aflatoxins, 33% contained ochratoxin A and 23% contained ochratoxin B. Ninety-four percent of the stool specimens also contained aflatoxins.

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