Evira develops new methods to promote animal and human health: New techniques enable more efficient determination of mycotoxins in cereals and animal feed


<div>Mycotoxins are toxic secondary metabolites produced by microfungi that may constitute a health hazard for both people and animals. A chemical method developed in Evira's Chemistry and Toxicology Research Unit is an example of new technology that promotes the health of animals and people. The new method enables a more comprehensive analysis of the degree of fungal contamination in cereal and feed samples, quickly and economically. The method is particularly useful e.g. when contaminated feed is the suspected cause of an illness in farm animals or pets, and a sample of the feed is still available. </div>

A total of some 300 mycotoxins have been identified. They are commonly found in, for example, cereals and nuts, and through feed may be transmitted also to food of animal origin. The toxic characteristics of mycotoxins vary a lot. Some are potent kidney and liver toxins, and others may induce diseases in humans and animals by producing tumours and abnormalities, and by impairing resistance. Mould and mycotoxin contamination may also deteriorate the quality of the cereal crop and thereby cause significant economic losses.

The chemical analytics of mycotoxins is a challenge as they usually appear in complex samples in relatively low levels. Moreover, one sample may contain several different compounds. For these reasons the development of the chemical methods of mycotoxins utilising e.g. new techniques is important.

Advanced methods enable a more comprehensive analysis of the mycotoxin contamination  of the sample, quickly and economically. This is important also because the compounds contained in the sample may have combined toxic effects.

The new multimethod developed in Evira's Chemistry and Toxicology Research Unit uses a liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry technique (LC/MS) for simultaneous determination of several mycotoxins in cereals and feeds. The advantage of the LC/MS technique is that usually the sample requires less processing, which speeds up the analysis process. In addition, it provides information about the structure and the molecular weight of the sample, which in turn facilitates confirmation of the identification. The LC/MS technique makes simultaneous determination of several compounds possible, including compounds with different characteristics. The LC-MS/MS multimethod developed in Evira can to some extent replace laborious methods that focus on a specific compound or group of compounds. This improves the efficiency of the analysis significantly.

Various cell studies carried out in laboratory conditions (in vitro) that are quick and simple to perform can also be taken advantage of when analysing the toxicity and effect mechanisms of different compounds and mixtures of compounds. Cell studies produce information on the toxicity of the sample that supplements chemical and mycological data.

Evira's Chemical and Toxicology Research Unit uses the LC-MS/MS method referred to above in both commissioned analyses related to animal health and in different research projects.

Evira and the organisations that preceded Evira, such as the National Veterinary and Food Research Institute (EELA) and the State Veterinary Institute, have already for almost 30 years conducted long-term studies on issues related to mycotoxins, such as their occurrence, formation and toxicity, and developed analysis methods to support these studies.

For more information, please contact:

Meri Kokkonen, Chemist, Chemistry and Toxicology Research Unit, Evira
tel. +358 (0) 20 77 24432

Marika Jestoi, Senior Researcher, Chemistry and Toxicology Research Unit, Evira
tel. +358 (0) 20 77 24431


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