Aquaculture for all

Tackling Mycotoxins in Animal Feeds

Nutrition Health Food safety & handling +1 more

In an exclusive interview for ThePigSite, Dr Radu Marti of Biomin explains the dangers presented by mycotoxins in feed and how mycotoxin deactivators can greatly ameliorate the risks these toxins pose to the health of farm animals and consumers of animal proteins.

Dr Radu Marti

Why Should Producers, Veterinarians and Nutritionists Worry about Mycotoxins?

"In the book, Mycotoxins Quo Vadis? Why Feed Additives?1, we have named the mycotoxins, metaphorically speaking of course, 'silent killers'. From this, you can already deduce that we are discussing some fungal metabolites that can trigger serious diseases in animals as well as in humans. The diseases are called mycotoxicosis."

The mycotoxins already appear in the field, affecting the crops due to the numerous factors that can influence the development of moulds and implicit the secretion of mycotoxins, which include humidity, temperature, insufficient oxygen, damage to the seeds and the presence of fungi spores. They also appear during storage.

In discussing moulds, the most commonly found are: Aspergillus (tropical/subtropical regions), Fusarium and Penicillinium (temperate – continental regions).

After an intense analyzing process of contaminated feed samples, the most predominant ones were found to be: DON, OTA, ZON, AFLA and FUM (determined through HPLC and ELISA).

To date, more than 350 types of mycotoxins harmful for both animals and humans have been identified.

The mycotoxins from the feed destined to animal feeding cause a wide variety of negative effects that affect their health status. They are so many that not all of them have been counted.

The main types of condition attributable to mycotoxin contamination are hepatic and/or renal necrosis but diarrhoea as well as oral and skin lesions are common symptoms.

However, the cumulative effects of mycotoxin contamination, over time, can lead, for example, to DNA modification and other cellular alterations. It can also cause immunosuppression and increase the risk of cancer formation, as well as oestrogenical effects such as inflammations of the vulva and teats or pseudo-pregnancies in sows.

In addition to these clinical signs, it is important to bear in mind that mycotoxins also adversely impact animal performance in terms of increases in feed conversion or mortality rate and so reduced performance is a general symptom of mycotoxin consumption in poultry, swine and ruminants.

Of course, similar deleterious effects may also be seen in human as a result of the consumption of mycotoxin-contaminated foods of many types, including meat, eggs and milk.

Symptoms of mycotoxins consumption in humans are mainly seen as intestinal lesions and diarrhoea induced by the alteration of the absorptive function of the intestine’s epithelium.

Different mycotoxins in small or medium quantities, have been detected in human blood, especially OTA, DON but also aflatoxins.

Mycotoxins have been discovered in different foods, such as bread, breakfast cereals and infants’ food but the most often contaminated food, at high levels, is peanuts.

Dr Marti explained that the EU norms, to which Romania also adheres, prescribe measures to prevent feed contamination with mycotoxins, including the use of mycotoxins deactivators (but not binders).

'Safe' Levels of Mycotoxin in Feed and Control Methods

According to Dr Marti, there is no such thing as a safe level of mycotoxins; any presence of mycotoxins in the feed should raise an alarm signal due to their deleterious cumulative effects. In the EU now, standards have been established for 'low', 'medium' and 'high' concentrations, which indicate exactly the levels of contamination determined for each type of mycotoxins present in the raw materials.

Regarding the control of mycotoxin levels in feed, the only solution is to use additives in the final feed at low doses (for prevention) of mycotoxins deactivators rather than higher doses of mycotoxins deactivators as a treatment for different precursor forms of diseases (mycotoxicosis) in the animals from the farm.

The required level of inclusion will depend on the degree of contamination (through the analysis and determinations) in corn, wheat, barley, soybean communicated by the supplier of cereals or in the quantities stored in own silages.

There are no other solutions to exclude mycotoxins, said Dr Marti, because we cannot control the nature and the climate.

Mycotoxin Control: Deactivation versus Detoxification

There are natural products based on minerals and present in Nature that have been used to combat the harmful effects of mycotoxins, according to Dr Marti.

They can be regarded as agents of deactivation and detoxification, which, once added to feed, deactivate the mycotoxins present in the intestines and later the complex created by the detoxification agent and the mycotoxins was eliminated in the manure.

Classic detoxifying agents include the bentonite (alumino-silicates) and clays (zeolites) but also cover combinations between specific binders mineral or organic, with a supplement of antioxidants and organic acids, lecithins and inactivated yeasts.

Another group of detoxifying agents are the organic polymers – glucomannans extracted from the cellular wall of the yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae). Bentonite, for example, is effective against T2 toxin but the large dosage required makes the product impractical in commercial situations.

The experiments conducted by Biomin - a successful one being also present in Dr Marti's book - have revealed the successful use of its top product, Mycofix® (Plus and Select).

In time, the product reaching its latest generation (continuously upgraded) has proven its role of detoxification and inactivation when used in animal feed. So it is, as we speak, the best mycotoxins deactivator on the market, according to Dr Marti.

For example, Mycofix Plus is a complex of five active, synergistic elements:

  • blend of minerals with synergistic action in the selective deactivation and detoxification of mycotoxins
  • biological constituent with the role of mycotoxins elimination
  • BBSH 797 - bio protein with the role of degradation of the mycotoxins’ molecular structure
  • phytogenics with a hepatio-protective role
  • phytophitics with the role of stimulating the immunity system.

This means: 1. adsorption = elimination of toxins, 2. biotransformation = elimination of toxicity, 3. biorprotection = elimination of toxic effects.

The presented products have a synergistic action, which simultaneously detoxifies and inactivates the mycotoxins.

Other products on the market are binders, which have different properties, according to Dr Marti. They do not fix, bind, deactivate, adsorb, biotransform and bioprotect but they do bind certain types of mycotoxin, e.g aflatoxins.

Control of Mycotoxins in Poultry Feed

Dr Marti's research - described in a new book1 - focused on finding out more about the influence of some anti-mycotoxin feed additives on the health of broiler chickens and their meat production.

He explained that the issue is dealt with in the context of climate change of the last years as well as other factors that have favoured a considerable mycotic pollution of the feedstuffs used for the production of mixed feed.

According to the general experimental plan, two feed additives meant to inactivate and detoxify the mycotoxins present in the feed of broiler chickens were studied - namely, Mycofix Plus and Mycofix MTV Select, both products produced by the Biomin of Austria.

Five experiments were conducted for this purpose.

The conclusions of his experiments, explained Dr Marti, are:

  • Mycofix Plus is recommended to be incorporated in the feed of broiler chickens in doses of two per cent or three per cent. depending on the DON and OTA contamination levels identified in the feed.
  • Mycofix MTV Select exerts a positive effect on the growth of broiler chickens if included in the feed at a dose of three per cent.

Dr Marti said: "The use of anti mycotoxicological products has become a necessity nowadays when mycotoxin contamination of animal feed is so worldwide spread.

"Practically, in order to obtain the desired performances in rearing broiler chickens it is essential to incorporate in their feed anti mycotic products as Mycofix Plus and Mycofix MTV Select, products created by the Biomin Company in Austria.

"For 10 years, I have been fighting for the inclusion of feed additives in the feed destined for animal feeding. The fact that I succeeded (more or less) to convince the farmers to use feed additives in their feed formulations is a real success. Still even today we could not totally convince them of the necessity of using one of the most important feed additives: the mycotoxins deactivators.

"This aspect has determined me to write a book, which will be an instrument of promoting the mycotoxins deactivators.

"The results were very good; the farmers realised that fighting against mycotoxins is not easy, especially when they are produced in large amounts. The fight could be carried out by blocking of absorption, and/or through the use of certain microorganisms to digest mycotoxins.

"It seems to be less difficult to prevent the contamination of cereals presenting high moisture level, through drying during storage. However, if cereals are contaminated from the field, during the vegetation period, some special agents for mycotoxins inactivation and detoxification must be used.

"Focusing on the same trend, Biomin has achieved remarkable results, creating a series of detoxifying agents, described within this book. The great results determined the authors of this book to initiate new researches to study the effect generated by the usage of such products on the detoxification of mycotoxins in the mixed feed designed for poultry, swine and ruminants.

"This battle has been won first of all in the name of our health, the consumers, by assuring a proper health status to the farm animal, through the use of feed additives – natural products created for the removal of other products and synthetic drugs potentially harmful to humans," concluded Dr Marti.

1 Mycotoxins Quo Vadis? Why Feed Additives? is a new book by Dr Radu Marti (Biomin GmbH, Austria) and Dr Razvan Mihail Radu-Rusu (Assistant Professor at the University of Agricultural Sciences and Veterinary Medicine, Iasi, Romania).

To find out more about the book, Mycotoxins Quo Vadis? Why Feed Additives?, co-written by Dr Marti, click here.

Further Reading

Go to our previous article from Dr Marti on this topic by clicking here.

September 2013

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