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Mycotoxin levels in subsistence farming systems in South Africa

Ncube, Edson (2008-03)

Thesis (MScAgric (Plant Pathology)--Stellenbosch University, 2008. Includes bibliography.summary,list of figures and appendices.


ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Fusarium spp. and Aspergillus spp. are toxin-producing fungi associated with maize and groundnut. Fusarium verticillioides produces fumonisins in maize, and Aspergillus flavus produces aflatoxins in maize and groundnut kernels. Both toxins are responsible for carcinogenesis in humans and animals. Contamination of maize and groundnut with mycotoxins is often most severe in rural areas where subsistence farmers are unaware of their existence and follow agricultural practices that might contribute to their production. A questionnaire was, therefore, compiled to investigate agricultural decisions in rural areas that may influence mycotoxin contamination of crops. During 2006 and 2007, maize and groundnut samples were collected in the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), Limpopo, and Mpumalanga provinces. Mycotoxin levels were quantified using the ELISA technique, and the incidence of Fusarium spp. in maize grain was determined by plating maize kernels out on Fusarium selective medium. Fumonisin-producing Fusarium spp. were also quantified using real-time PCR (TaqMan). The incidence of A. flavus and A. parasiticus in groundnut was determined by plating out kernels on potato dextrose agar. Fumonisin contamination levels in maize samples ranged from 0-21.8 parts per million (ppm) and aflatoxin levels ranged from 0- 49 parts per billion (ppb), depending on the region where samples were collected. Aflatoxin levels in groundnut ranged from 0-160.1 ppb. Fusarium verticillioides was the most common Fusarium sp. in maize followed by F. subglutinans and F. proliferatum, respectively. Regression analyses showed a positive correlation between fumonisin-producing Fusarium species when determined by real-time PCR and fumonisin concentration (r2=0.866). Regression analyses further showed a highly significant positive correlation between A. flavus and aflatoxin contamination (r2=0.10235). Samples from northern KZN contained levels of mycotoxins that were far in excess of the maximum levels set by the Food and Drug Administration in the USA. In South Africa there are currently no regulations with regard to the maximum allowable levels of fumonisin in human food. The high incidence of mycotoxin contamination of human food in subsistence farming systems indicates the need for awareness programmes and further research.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Fusarium spp. en Aspergillus spp. is toksien-produserende fungi wat met mielies en grondbone geassosieer word. Fusarium verticillioides produseer fumonisiene in mielies, terwyl, A. flavus aflatoksiene in mielies en grondbone produseer. Beide toksiene is karsinogenies vir mens en dier. Die vlakke van toksien-kontaminasie is meestal die ergste in landelike gebiede waar bestaansboere onbewus is daarvan. Landboupraktyke wat deur die boere toegepas word vererger dikwels die probleem. ‘n Vraelys is saamgestel om vas te stel watter landboupraktyke in landelike gebiede toegepas word, en hoe dit toksien-kontaminasie in mielies en grondbone beinvloed. In die 2006 en 2007 seisoene is mielie- en grondboonmonsters in Kwa-Zulu-Natal (KZN), die Oos Kaap, Limpopo en die Mpumalanga provinsie versamel. Toksien-vlakke is gekwantifiseer deur gebruik te maak van die ELISA tegniek. Die insidensie van Fusarium spp. in mielies was bepaal deur pitte op Fusariumselektiewe agar uit te plaat. Fumonisien-produserende Fusarium spp. was ook gekwantifiseer deur van kwantitatiewe PCR (TaqMan) gebruik te maak. Die voorkoms van A. flavus en A. parasiticus is bepaal deurdat mielie- en grondboonpitte op aartappel dekstrose agar uit te plaat. Fumonisien-vlakke in die mieliemonsters het gewissel van 0-21.8 dele per miljoen (dpm), terwyl aflatoksienvlakke gewissel het van 0-49 dele per biljoen (dpb), afhangende van die omgewing waar monsters versamel is. Aflatoksien vlakke in die grondboonmonsters het gewissel van 0-160.1 dpb. Fusarium verticillioides is die meeste vanuit mielies geisoleer, gevolg deur F. subglutinans en F. proliferatum. Regressie analises het ‘n positiewe korrelasie tussen fumonisien konsentrasie en fumonisien-produserende spp. aangedui waar daar gebruik gemaak is van die kwantitatiewe PCR (r2= 0.866). Regressie analises het ‘n hoogs betekenisvolle positiewe korrelasie getoon tussen A. flavus en aflatoksien kontaminasie (r2=0.10). Monsters van noordelike KZN het toksienvlakke bevat ver bokant die maksimum toelaatbare vlakke is soos bepaal deur die Food en Drug Administrasie in die Verenigde State van Amerika. Daar is tans geen regulasies in Suid Afrika wat die maksimum toelaatbare vlakke van fumonisiene in voedsel vir menslike gebruik bepaal nie. Die hoë voorkoms van mikotoksien-kontaminasie in bestaansboer-sisteme, dui die belangrikheid van verdere navorsing en bewusmakings-progamme aan.

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