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Mold growth in barley

Mycotoxins (mold toxins) are secondary metabolic products from mold , which in vertebrates can be toxic even in the smallest quantities. In contrast to this, the toxic ingredients of large mushrooms are called mushroom poisons . A disease caused by mycotoxins is called mycotoxicosis .


Mold-infested foods and thus mycotoxins have been consumed since time immemorial. Serious thought was given to it for the first time since 1960, when thousands of turkeys in England died of moldy peanut meal. The intensive search for the toxic substances then led to the discovery of the aflatoxins . During the Second World War, a disease occurred in the USSR that inhibited the formation of white blood cells and was based on moldy millet and moldy wheat. Only after years, the disease-causing mycotoxin, which was T-2 toxin from the group of from Fusarium formed trichothecenes discovered that occurred in Russian grain samples having a concentration of up to 2.5%.


About 200 different toxins are now known, which are produced by over 300 types of fungus, whereby the production of a certain toxin can be limited to a few certain types, but can also be achieved by many types of several genera. The optimal conditions for the formation of the toxin and the growth of the mold need not necessarily match. Most mycotoxins are very resistant to heat and acid treatment.

The formation of mycotoxins is subject to pronounced regional and seasonal fluctuations and depends on the food available, water content in the substrate and surrounding air (humidity), temperature, pH value and interactions with other fungi. Substrates rich in carbohydrates of complex composition are preferred for poison formation .

Human beings are mainly threatened by contamination in food. All moldy foods can contain mycotoxins.

  • Primary contamination: Grain was already attacked by mold in the field (e.g. ergot on rye , wheat , barley )
  • Secondary contamination: stored food becomes moldy (e.g. Aspergillus or Penicillium spp.)
  • Carry over : farm animals ingest moldy feed (e.g. maize, wheat, soy, palm kernel expeller) and pass on the toxins it contains to the products: milk , eggs , meat

The FAO estimates that around 25% of world food production contains mycotoxins. Grains (especially maize and wheat ) are most frequently contaminated with Fusarium toxins . Agricultural products from tropical and subtropical areas are often affected by aflatoxin infestation, as the Aspergillus flavus fungus only grows well from temperatures of 25 to 40 ° C. Mainly maize and oil-containing seeds and nuts , such as. B. Pistachios , peanuts , almonds and Brazil nuts .


Mycotoxins can have toxic effects in humans and animals even in low concentrations.

In particular, mycotoxins

A number of mycotoxins have the ability to prevent bacteria from multiplying. One speaks here of an antibiotic effect and uses this property in various drugs against bacterial infections . See also: penicillin .


Mycotoxins can be grouped together either because of a similar molecular structure or according to the type of mold that produces them:

Strictly speaking, ergot alkaloids should be counted among the fungus poisons . Because the producer, ergot (Claviceps purpurea), belongs to the large mushrooms, since small but clearly recognizable fruiting bodies grow out of the sclerotium in spring .

List of mycotoxins (selection)

Name of the toxin (s) Main producers essential Occurrence (Poison) effect
Aflatoxins Aspergillus flavus
Aspergillus parasiticus
Peanuts, cereals, corn, figs, milk ( carry over )

Contaminated rooms (via skin contact and respiratory tract)

hepatotoxic , carcinogenic , acute toxicity , aflatoxin B 1 = strongest mycotic carcinogen
Altenuen Alternaria alternata
Alternaria solani
Alternariol (AOH) Alternaria alternata
Alternaria solani
Fruits, vegetables, tobacco, millet, nuts mutagenic
Alternariol monomethyl ether (AME) Alternaria alternata
Alternaria solani
Fruits, vegetables, tobacco, millet, nuts mutagenic
Cephalosporin Cephalosporium acremonium antibiotic
Chaetomin Chaetomium species nephrotoxic , antibiotic effect on gram-positive bacteria
Citrinine Aspergillus ochraceus
Penicillium citrinum
Grain hepatotoxic, nephrotoxic, carcinogenic
Deoxynivalenol (DON) Fusarium culmorum
Fusarium graminearum
Grain gastrointestinal irritant
Fumagillin Aspergillus fumigatus inhibits angiogenesis , antibiotic
Fumonisins Fusarium verticillioides
Fusarium proliferatum
Fusarium anthophilum
mainly corn possibly carcinogenic, teratogenic
Fusarin C. Fusarium species mutagenic, presumably carcinogenic
Fusaric acid (FA) Fusarium species slightly toxic, antibiotic
Gliotoxin Aspergillus fumigatus
Aspergillus terreus
Eurotium chevalieri
Gliocladium fimbriatum
cytotoxic , immunosuppressive
Griseofulvin Penicillium griseofulvum antibiotic
Kojic acid Aspergillus and Penicillium species Corn, probably many other foods and feeds weakly mutagenic, moderately antibiotic, epilepsy-like symptoms in animal experiments ( ip )
Moniliformin Fusarium avenaceum
Fusarium tricinctum
Fusarium fusaroides
Fusarium moniliforme
Barley, corn gastroenteritic, hemorrhagic
Ergot alkaloids Claviceps purpurea Grain ergotism
Mycophenolic acid Penicillium brevicompactum
Nivalenol Fusarium culmorum Barley, corn, wheat hemorrhagic
Ochratoxin A (OTA) Aspergillus ochraceus
Penicillium viridicatum
Peanuts, corn, wheat, cottonseed meal nephrotoxic, dermatotoxic , carcinogenic
Patulin Penicillium claviforme
Penicillium expansum
Penicillium griseofulvum
Penicillium leucopus
Penicillium clavatus
Penicillium giganteus
Penicillium terreus
Apple juice, apples and other types of fruit hemorrhagic, edematous , carcinogenic in animal experiments ( sc. )
penicillin Penicillium notatum antibiotic
Penicillic acid many species of Penicillium and Aspergillus Corn, feed antibiotic, carcinogenic in animal experiments (sc.)
Penitrem A Penicillium carneum
Penicillium crustosum
Meat, meat products neurotoxic , tremorous
Roquefortine Penicillium roqueforti
Penicillium commune
Rice flour u. a. food neurotoxic, paralytic
Satratoxins Stachybotrys chartarum systemic symptoms of intoxication
Sterigmatocystin Aspergillus aurantiobrunneus
Aspergillus nidulans
Aspergillus quadrilineatus
Aspergillus ustus
Aspergillus variecolor
Aspergillus versicolor
Hard cheese, green coffee beans, barley, corn, wheat, rice carcinogenic, hepatotoxic, nephrotoxic
Tenuazonic acid Alternaria alternata Apples, tomatoes antibiotic, antiviral, low toxicity, inhibits protein biosynthesis
Trichothecenes mainly Fusarium species,
also Cephalosporium ,
Stachybotrys ,
Grain, contaminated areas (via skin contact and respiratory tract) diverse
T-2 toxin Fusarium culmorum
Fusarium incarnatum
Fusarium poae
Fusarium solani
Fusarium sporotrichioides
Fusarium tricinctum
Trichoderma lignorum
Barley, millet, corn,

Contaminated rooms (via skin contact and respiratory tract)

Viomellein Aspergillus ochraceus
Penicillium cyclopium
Penicillium melanoconidium
Penicillium freii
Penicillium viridicatum
Nephro- and hepatotoxic
Verrucosidine Penicillium aurantiogriseum
Penicillium melanoconidium
Penicillium polonicum
Verruculogen Penicillium verrucosum
Aspergillus fumigatus
Grain tremorgenous, presumably tumor-promoting effect
Xanthomegnin Aspergillus species
Penicillium species
Trichophyton species
Microsporum species
Meat, meat products hepatotoxic
Zearalenone (ZEA) Fusarium avenaceum
Fusarium culmorum
Fusarium equiseti
Fusarium gibbosum
Fusarium lateritium
Fusarium moniliform
Fusarium nivale
Fusarium oxysporum
Fusarium graminearum
Fusarium sambucinum
Fusarium tricinctum
Cornflakes, barley, oats, millet, corn, nuts, rye, sesame flour, wheat Effects as estrogen , infertility

Ethanol (ethyl alcohol), which is produced during the anaerobic metabolism of sugars by some yeasts (especially Saccharomyces cerevisiae ), is one of the primary metabolic products and is therefore not a mycotoxin in the narrower sense.

Detection methods

There are several physico-chemical methods for mycotoxin analysis:

During these examinations, the substances are extracted from the examination material with organic solvents and cleaned and concentrated in a complex process to such an extent that clear detection without interfering substances is possible. The HPLC / MS and GC / MS couplings enable both the reliable identification and quantification of the various mycotoxins. As a rule, derivatives (e.g. trimethylsilyl derivatives) are used for gas chromatography. When using the HPLC / MS coupling, underivatized mycotoxins can also be measured. Both electron impact ionization (EI) and chemical ionization (CI) with quadrupole and ion trap mass spectrometers are possible ionization methods. There are immunological ELISA methods and mycotoxin strip tests ("dipsticks"), which are carried out using the method of "capillary diffusion tests" or "flow-through tests", for rapid analysis of raw material acceptance in food and feed companies (especially for DON and ZEA) work. Recently there are also homogeneous Rapid Kinetic Assays, which as precision rapid tests enable precise quantitative determinations in less than 15 minutes.

Maximum volume regulations

EU-wide, the Commission Regulation (EC) No. 1881/2006 on the setting of maximum levels for certain contaminants in food of December 19, 2006 applies. In Switzerland, the maximum levels are determined by the EDI Ordinance on Maximum Levels for Contaminants (Contaminants Ordinance , VHK).


  • Frank Frössel: Mold in apartments. When the mushroom lives to sublet . Baulino Verlag, Waldshut-Tiengen 2006, ISBN 3-938537-18-3 .
  • Lutz Roth, Hanns K. Frank, Kurt Kormann: Poison mushrooms · Mushroom poisons. Molds Mycotoxins. Occurrence, ingredients, fungal allergies. ecomed, Landsberg 1990, ISBN 3-609-64730-2 .
  • Rudolf Weber: Mycotoxins in Food. In: Chemistry in Our Time. 17th year 1983, No. 5, pp. 146-151, ISSN  0009-2851 .
  • Rolf Steinmüller: Mycotoxins and their rapid detection. Part 1. In: Mill + compound feed. 150th year 2013, issue 11, pp. 343-349, ISSN  0027-2949 .

Web links

Wiktionary: Mycotoxin  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Habermehl: The importance of mycotoxicoses for humans and animals. In: German veterinary weekly. 1989, pp. 335-338.
  2. Thalmann: Conditions for the formation of mycotoxins in feed. In: German veterinary weekly. 1989, Vol 96, pp 341-343.
  3. [1] , Martin Felsner and Dr. Katja Schwertl-Banzhaf, Bavarian State Office for Health and Food Safety, November 16, 2010
  4. Media release from the agricultural research institute Agroscope Reckenholz-Tänikon ART .
  5. HU Melchert, E. Pabel: Reliable identification and quantification of trichothecenes and other mycotoxins by electron impact and chemical ionization-gas chromatography-mass spectrometry, using an ion-trap system in the multiple mass spectrometry mode - Candidate reference method for complex matrices. In: Journal of Chromatography. (2004), A 1056, pp. 195-199, PMID 15595550 .
  6. Elise Teichmann, Frank Mallwitz: Industrial quality control of oats, wheat and other types of grain with DON and T-2 / HT-2 analysis. In: Mühle + mixed feed. 150th year (2013), issue 11, pp. 332–336 ISSN  0027-2949 .
  7. Regulation (EC) No. 1881/2006 setting the maximum levels for certain contaminants in food.
  8. Ordinance of the EDI on the maximum levels for contaminants In: , accessed on February 12, 2020