Mycotoxin: Aflatoxin (AT)
Aflatoxins are the most toxic and potent hepato-carcinogenic natural compounds ever characterized. There are four major Aflatoxins: B1, B2, G1, G2. Aflatoxin B1 is the most potent carcinogen and is the major mycotoxin produced by A. flavus. Aflatoxin’s reputation as a potent toxin may explain why it has been adopted for use in bioterrorism. There is substantial evidence that Iraq stockpiled aflatoxin to be delivered in missiles.
Health Effects: In addition to the carcinogenic effect of aflatoxins, A. flavus is the second leading cause of invasive aspergillosis in immunocompromised patients. Particularly common clinical syndromes associated with A. flavus include: chronic granulomatous sinusitis, keratitis, cutaneous aspergillosis, wound infections and osteomyelitis following trauma and inoculation.
Epidemiological studies implicate aflatoxins in food as the causative agent for liver cancer. There is no other natural product in which the data on human carcinogenicity is so compelling. The International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified aflatoxin B1 as a group I carcinogen.