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Testing fumonisin activity.

Fumonisins are recently discovered mycotoxins, or metabolic byproducts, made by the molds Fusarium moniliforme and F. proliferatum.

South African researchers were the first to describe fumonisins in 1988. In the same year, ARS chemist Ronald D. Plattner, at the National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research (NCAUR) in Peoria, Illinois, was the first scientist to isolate fumonisins from U.S. corn.

Fumonisin [B.sub.1] has been implicated in outbreaks of equine leukoencephalomalacia (ELEM) and swine pulmonary edema. [See "Corn Mold Hazard," August. 1990, p. 27.]

The effect of fumonisins on poultry is not known, but ongoing research at Peoria may yield information to help establish guidelines. And researchers at the Richard B. Russell Research Center in Athens, Georgia, are using rats as a model for investigating the toxin's effects on organs and tissues.

At NCAUR, some unusual blood donors--turkeys--are contributing to fumonisin studies. ARS chemist Mary Ann Dombrink-Kurtzman is collecting blood from 8- to 16-week-old Nicholas broad-breasted whites residing on a central Illinois farm. She began these studies in March 1991.

"Turkeys have veins close to the surface of their wings similar to the veins in human arms where blood is usually drawn. It's necessary to use fresh blood to obtain cells suitable for testing," says Dombrink-Kurtzman.

After exposing the turkey lymphocytes--a type of white blood cell--to purified fumonisins, Dombrink-Kurtzman adds a tetrazolium salt known as MTT. The living blood cells contain a dehydrogenase enzyme that converts MTT (yellow) to MTT formazan (blue). To measure the effect of the fumonisins, she compares the intensity of the blue color of the exposed cells to that of unexposed controls.

The MTT test is an alternative to testing with whole animals. "If we can see the effect the toxin has at the cellular level, then we can predict what may be happening in the whole animal," says Dombrink-Kurtzman.

Use of the MTT test was the brainchild of John L. Richard. Formerly a member of the Pathology Unit at ARS' National Animal Disease Center in Ames, Iowa, he now heads NCAUR's Mycotoxin Research Unit. Richard has applied this test to other mycotoxins, such as gliotoxin and T-2 toxin.

While fumonisins are not regulated as food or feed hazards by USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service or the Food and Drug Administration, results of the ARS studies are available to these agencies, which are responsible for monitoring the safety of the U.S. food supply.
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Title Annotation:mycotoxins from the molds Fusarium moniliforme and Fusarium proliferatum
Author:Cooke, Linda
Publication:Agricultural Research
Date:Apr 1, 1993
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