TOXO-XL About Mycotoxins TOXO-XL About Mycotoxins

Mycotoxins can impact animal health and overall farm performance

What are mycotoxins?

Mycotoxins are secondary metabolites produced by various moulds that can infest raw materials and poultry feeds. They can be produced while the crops are growing in the fields and at various stages of raw material storage and transportation. Fusarium mycotoxins are mainly produced in the fields while Aspergillus and Penicillium mycotoxins can be produced both in the fields and during storage. The type and concentration of mycotoxins produced on crops depends on factors that include seed quality, temperature, relative humidity in the atmosphere, rainfall, soil condition, use of fungicides and fungal load in the environment. Unexpected rainfall while harvesting crops further increases the chances of mould growth and mycotoxin production. The good news is that many factors impacting mycotoxin production during raw material storage and transportation can be managed well if given adequate attention. 

Feed mill hygiene also plays a key role in reducing mycotoxin production during feed manufacture and storage. Although more than 600 mycotoxins have been characterized so far, very few are studied extensively in poultry production. Most attention has centred on the “big six” mycotoxins and a few “emerging mycotoxins.” “Big six” mycotoxins include aflatoxin B1 (AFB1), ochratoxin A (OTA), T-2 toxin, DON, fumonisin B1 (FB1) and zearalenone (ZEN). “Emerging mycotoxins” primarily include fusaric acid and moniliformin. After analysing a large sample of data, we found that a combination of mycotoxins normally occurs in raw materials and complete feeds. In general, AFBand FB1 are a major issue in tropical regions of the world while DON and ZEN are a major issue in temperate regions. OTA and T-2 toxin can be found in many different regions due to the moderate requirements of temperature and humidity for the respective moulds for growth and mycotoxin production.

The industry is just beginning to understand the risks of multiple and synergistic effects of mycotoxins. We have a long and interesting road ahead.
Dr. Swamy Haladi - Global Programme Manager Mycotoxin Risk Management


Mycotoxicosis is a condition observed in poultry upon the ingestion of different concentrations of mycotoxins in complete feed. Although mycotoxins affect most organs and systems in poultry, some are more vulnerable to a specific group of mycotoxins. For example, aflatoxins are known as potent liver toxins while ochratoxins are known to severely affect kidneys. Similarly, the gastro-intestinal tract (GIT) is more vulnerable to trichothecene mycotoxins (DON and T-2) while fumonisins affect sphingholipid metabolism in various organs. The one system that is affected by all these mycotoxins is the immune system – and it can be affected even at very low mycotoxin concentrations. Despite what many people think, poultry can tolerate ZEN even at higher concentrations; therefore, it is not a challenge that poultry producers need to be concerned about. All of the groups of mycotoxins mentioned above, except for ZEN, have (in different concentrations) been implicated in lowering feed intake, weight gain, egg production, egg weight, eggshell quality, fertility, hatchability and antibody titers and increasing FCR and mortality, ultimately leading to a poor economic return to producers.  

Major systems affected

In recent years, scientists have made a considerable effort to understand the reasons behind mycotoxin-induced poor performance in poultry. Most of these mechanisms can be classified into three groups: gut health, immunity and reproduction. The gut health effects can mainly be attributed to the effects of mycotoxins on intestinal barrier function. Many mycotoxins, such as DON, T-2, OTA and FB1, can affect the function of tight junction proteins. AFB1, OTA and T-2 are known to reduce the production of enzymes responsible for feed digestion. Most mycotoxins can affect all the branches of immune system: cell-mediated, antibody-mediated and innate immunity. They reduce the ability of birds to mount an immune response against pathogens such as bacteria and viruses. This is the reason why, even when birds are vaccinated, disease outbreaks can still happen. Most of the reproduction issues in poultry are traced back to the ability of mycotoxins to reduce eggshell quality and the subsequent effects on embryo viability and hatchability. 

Mycotoxin FAQ

What is the impact of DON on broilers?

In poultry, DON alone mainly has a negative impact on intestinal barrier function (e.g. tight junctions) and morphology (e.g. villi height) but rarely reduces animal performance to a significant level. However, when DON is present together with other mycotoxins, it can act as a katalyst to amplify the toxicity of other mycotoxins. 

Is there a cumulative effect when low levels of mycotoxins are consumed over a longer period of time?

Absolutely yes. Chronic exposure to multiple mycotoxins, though each may be at low risk level, can drive down animal health and performance. 

Contact us

Please leave your details and message and our specialists will be in contact with you.