They're here, there, and everywhere: Toxins produced by a common fungus are spreading beyond food crops and invading the environment, including water supplies, with unknown consequences, researchers in Switzerland report. Their study reveals a need for stronger monitoring and control of these overlooked "micropollutants."
The contaminants are members of a larger family fungal-produced toxins called mycotoxins. In the report, Thomas Bucheli and colleagues note that scientists have studied two of the most common mycotoxins -- deoxynivalenol and zearalenone -- in food and animal feed products for decades. However, scientists know very little about the distribution of these toxins elsewhere in the environment.
In the new study, the researchers exposed a winter wheat field to Fusarium graminearum, a major fungal source of deoxynivalenol and zearalenone, and subsequently monitored these toxins in the field's drainage water before, during and after harvest. Using high-tech lab instruments, they found that levels of these toxins increased significantly after harvest. Levels of deoxynivalenol, for instance, rose by almost 4,000-fold. Traces of these toxins were also found in a number of Swiss rivers, they note.
The study "Fusarium Mycotoxins: Overlooked Aquatic Micropollutants?" is scheduled for the Feb. 13 issue of ACS' Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/jf073082k
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