There are many types of mycotoxins, and each one affects poultry and livestock in different ways. Some species are more susceptible to certain mycotoxins than others, and some toxins, such as aflatoxins and Type A trichothecenes, can even be fatal when ingested by animals.
This article examines the various types of mycotoxins and how they affect animals, according to experts Alexandra Weaver, Ph.D., of Alltech Mycotoxin Management, and Raj Murugesan, DVM, Ph.D., technical officer at Biomin America Inc.
Aflatoxins can be fatal in animals and are particularly dangerous to poultry and ruminants. They can cause liver damage, immune suppression/oxidative stress, reduced weight gain, increase in somatic cell counts/mastitis, milk contamination and can alter fiber digestibility. In poultry, they can cause oral and dermal lesions, fatty liver, impaired feathering and result in lower egg quality. In pigs, they can cause diarrhea, hematuria, hematochezia, enterocolitis, hepatic lipidosis and necrosis, porcine pulmonary edema, pancreatic necrosis, cystitis and kidney damage.
Type A trichothecenes
Type A trichothecenes also can be fatal in animals, primarily pigs and poultry. They can also cause reduced feed intake, intestinal damage, diarrhea, hemorrhaging/bleeding of the intestine or nose, oxidative stress and immune suppression. In poultry, they can cause fatty liver, impaired feathering, reproductive problems and reduced egg quality. In pigs and ruminants, they can contribute to reproductive problems.
Type B trichothecenes
Also known as deoxynivalenol, Type B trichothecenes can cause reduced feed intake, intestinal damage, diarrhea, oxidative stress, immune suppression or vaccine failure, reduced weight gain, poor reproduction, abortions/mummies, and reduced milk production and quality/increase in somatic cell counts. In poultry, they can cause reduced egg quality, fatty liver and impaired feathering. In pigs, they cause a range of problems from feed refusal to stillbirths.
Fumonisins increase the colonization of gut pathogens and cause immune suppression and internal organ damage. In pigs, they can result in porcine pulmonary edema and, in horses, can cause equine leukoencephalomalacia. In ruminants, they can affect kidney and liver health.
Zearalenones bind to estrogen receptors, altering reproductivity by changing heat cycles, altering the onset of maturity, altering sperm quality and resulting in abortions, stillbirths and low conception rates and vuval swelling/prolapse. In poultry, they result in decreased hatchability, decreased egg production and egg quality, ovarian cysts, embryonic loss and delayed maturation.
Fusaric acid alters brain neurotransmitter levels, causes lethargy due to low blood pressure, and causes swelling of mammary glands or extremities. It is synergistic with other mycotoxins.
Ochratoxins or citrinin cause feed refusal, kidney damage, oxidative stress, intestinal damage and diarrhea. In poultry, they can cause impaired feathering, fatty liver and decreased egg quality.
Patulin, or penicillic acid or citreoviridin, causes rumen upsets, loose manure, immune suppression, poor milk quality, oxidative stress and reduced weight gain.
Cyclopiazonic acid causes intestinal damage, oxidative stress, immune suppression and reduced weight gain.
Ergot toxins affect pigs and ruminants more than poultry. They can cause gangrene in cool weather and impaired thermoregulation in hot weather, as well as reduced circulating prolactin, agalactia, impaired rumen function, intestinal damage, altered gestation length, altered weight gain and convulsions, staggering or paralysis.