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Faulty agricultural practice leads to food contamination with deadly toxin

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05.01.2018

Scientists have demonstrated that certain insects stimulate A. flavus to produce aflatoxin. However, the interaction between insects and the fungus requires further examination. Pressure exercised by the environment is high as contaminated plants are eaten by breeding animals, leading to a loss at approx. USD 270 million per year in the territory of the U.S. alone. Developing countries are affected by even more substantial losses.

Preliminary research has initially confirmed that only a part of Aspergillus flavus produces aflatoxin, while conclusions drawn by Mickey Drott, a plant pathologist, are surprising. A fungal colony of this kind is likely to produce the toxic substance in defence against being eaten by certain insect larvae, incidentally contaminating the plant itself to protect its feeding ground and remove the competition.

The observations were conducted under laboratory conditions, as involving A. flavus and larvae of fruit flies - the colony would both grow and produce aflatoxin more readily when exposed to closer presence of insects. Presently, it is still necessary to validate the research results under field conditions, namely in areas populated by those plant pests that - contrary to larvae of fruit flies ? naturally interact with the fungus (e.g. certain caterpillars feeding on corn). Currently, the problem of crop contamination with A. flavus colonies that are capable of producing aflotoxin is neglected. It draws attention to the necessity of also controlling plants for the presence of certain insects that surround them.

Source: Biology

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