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A Mycotoxin Briefing

Steve Ensley, DVM, PhD

Kansas State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory Toxicologist

Mycotoxins are secondary metabolites of fungi that are toxic to other life forms. More than 800 mycotoxins have been detected, but relatively few have been characterized and are considered to be important to animal health. There has been a tremendous increase in the ability to detect new and novel mycotoxins in the last few years.

Mycotoxin prevalence and concentration are sporadic and vary annually, even in the same location. Production is affected by local weather patterns, crop damage, and productions practices. Mycotoxins may be produced pre- or post-harvest.

Mycotoxins known to occur in Kansa are aflatoxin, fumonisin, vomitoxin, T-2 and zearalenone. They are mostly found in grain, including corn, wheat, milo, rye, and oats. They may be found in silages or other feeds which contain grain.

Health effects:

Since there are many kinds of mycotoxins, which differ from each other, they produce many different kinds of diseases, called mycotoxicoses. They may cause diseases of the liver, gastrointestinal tract, respiratory system, immune system, reproductive system or kidneys. Mycotoxicoses are not contagious.

Effects of the mycotoxins known to occur in Kansas are described in the table below.

Detection of mycotoxins:

Detection of mycotoxins in feeds can aid in the prevention of mycotoxicoses.

Chemical analysis is the best way to find mycotoxins in feed. Screening methods such as ELISA kits are commonly used to rapidly detect mycotoxins. Positive results obtained by most screening methods do not prove the presence of mycotoxins, so positive results should be confirmed using chemical methods.

Screening for mycotoxins in feeds by black light (ultra-violet light) is not always reliable. Detection is based upon the fluorescence of chemicals indicative of the presence of aflatoxin, which occurs when the black light shines on them. Mycotoxins other than aflatoxin do not fluoresce. Chemicals that are not mycotoxins may also fluoresce, causing false positive results

Sampling for analysis:

Mycotoxins are not evenly distributed in feeds. Some areas may contain very high concentrations; other areas may contain no detectable amounts. Detection in feeds depends upon the quality and quantity of sample provided for analysis. The sample should reflect all of the feed available at the time the problem occurred. The longer sample is collected after onset of animal health problems, the more likely the feed from which the sample is collected will not be characteristic of the feed being eaten at the time the problem began. And, the smaller the sample collected and provided for analysis, the more likely mycotoxin contamination will be missed.

Sampling-based upon the visible presence of molds does not always provide a sample that contains mycotoxins. The presence or absence of visible mold growth are not reliable indicators of the presence or absence of mycotoxins. Very moldy feed may not contain any detectable amounts of know mycotoxins, while good looking feed may contain very high concentrations.

It is best to collect a sample during movement of the feed, like when augering it from the storage bin into a grain truck. Collect small amounts over the entire time the feed is being moved, so that at least 5

pounds, and as much as 10 pounds, have been collected, and mix the collected sample thoroughly. From this large sample randomly select 1 pound in a zip lock bag to submit to the laboratory. Probe sampling may be used. Collect probe samples from as many areas of the feed as practical into a composite sample to select the 1 pound sample from.

Dry samples are preferred for transport to the laboratory. Mold may grow on wet sample, especially if the sample is placed in a plastic bag. Oven-dry specimens to less than 13% moisture for best preservation. Ship sample in a Styrofoam container on ice.

If you have questions about Mycotoxins or other potential poisons, please contact Kansas State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory Outreach at 866-512-5650 or clientcare@vet.k-state.edu


Successful Extension Education Delivery Model Considered Locally Atchison-Leavenworth Districting News Update 2018 

Atchison and Leavenworth County Extension Councils plan to join 50 counties across the state who have formed extension districts. There are currently 17 Kansas Extension Districts. Local discussions in regard to districting have been ongoing. Local extension council members have developed a QUESTION AND ANSWER FACT SHEET to provide districting details to local citizens. Community members are also encouraged to contact local Atchison or Leavenworth County Extension offices if they have additional questions. They may also visit their local county extension office for a printed copy of the fact sheet. Learn more here.

Opportunity to get rid of OLD pesticides

The Kansas Department of Agriculture (KDA) Pesticide and Fertilizer Program received a grant for the disposal of orphan pesticides. Orphan pesticides are those pesticide products that are no longer supported by the registrant, that have not been registered with EPA or KDA for several years. Some examples would be lindane, chlordane, 2, 4,5T etc. If you have products with COOP on the label, it is time to dispose of them. There is a limited amount of money available. This is a short window of opportunity (about a 3 weeks) and is on a first come first served basis. This opportunity is for farmers or agri-businesses with old pesticides that cannot be used. There is no cost for disposal for those products that qualify. The grant covers disposal of pesticides only. Lubricants and adjuvants do not qualify. To be eligible for the funds, make a list of each of the products, the quantity, the name of the product and the EPA Registration Number, take photos of the products for disposal and email the list along with the photos to Judy.Glass@KS.gov. If you have additional questions or concerns, please contact Judy Glass at 785-564-6690 or email at Judy.Glass@KS.gov.

Do not delay if want to take advantage of this opportunity.


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