The Toxicology of Aflatoxin

  • W. H. Butler


That fungi can produce toxic substances has been recognised for centuries. The well-known hazards of the mushrooms, although not strictly relevant to this meeting, are of considerable interest and have been reviewed by Wieland and Wieland.1 The toxins induce a pathological change in many of the major organs. The mushrooms also produce such pharmacologically interesting compounds as muscarin which has been studied extensively. Accidental ingestion of mycotoxins which are food contaminants have also been recognised for a long time, the best example of which is ergotism. Two basic clinical syndromes are associated with ergot poisoning, the active principals of which are alkaloids of lysergic acid, firstly gangrene and abortion due to effects on smooth muscle and central nervous system effects of convulsions and hallucinations. The action of these compounds on smooth muscle is still used therapeutically in its action upon uterine muscle. However, as a result of improving agricultural methods in those countries where rye is grown, the outbreaks of clinical disease are infrequent and do not really present a problem to public health. To anticipate somewhat any discussion of the problem of other mycotoxins, the decline of ergotism is an example of what can be done with improved agricultural methods.


Smooth Endoplasmic Reticulum Zona Reticularis Hepatic Carcinoma Peanut Meal Lysergic Acid 
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Copyright information

© South African Medical Research Council 1971

Authors and Affiliations

  • W. H. Butler
    • 1
  1. 1.Medical Research Council LaboratoriesCarshaltonSurreyEngland

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