• Condensed by Lynda Kiernan-Stone

This Discovery Could Be a Gamechanger For Farmers Combating Mycotoxin

An accidental discovery made by a team of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) scientists at the London Research and Development Center in Ontario could be a gamechanger in the fight against mycotoxins.

Mycotoxins are toxic metabolites produced by fungi that colonize crops and survive on plants, and pose a serious health risk to both humans and livestock.

The team was originally looking to learn more about a certain mycotoxin known as orchotoxin A, and its potential to damage Canadian grapes, and consequently, wine. But ended up discovering an enzyme that makes some mycotoxins less deadly.

Their work led to the discovery that Aspergillus produced orchotoxin and another mycotoxin called fumonisin - however, these molecules of fumonisin didn’t contain nitrogen - a key component to the toxicity factor of fumonisins -- should this be “fumonisins”, which contaminate corn and wheat, leading to multiple cancers or neural tube birth defects in humans.

The team has isolated the enzyme responsible for converting fumonisins into the type that lack nitrogen, and has begun a partnership project with a privately held company to commercially develop the enzyme.

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