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Study shows ‘cocktail’ effects of toxins poisoning our diets

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Work from INRAE ​​in collaboration with Inserm, Toulouse III-Paul Sabatier University and Toulouse National Veterinary School shows that mycotoxins found in food interact with a wide range of other toxins. A press article was published at the end of November following the investigation. Isabelle Oswald, director of research at the INRAE ​​​​​​Occitanie-Toulouse center, takes stock.

Mycotoxins are present in our food. If they do not pose a danger below a certain limit, they can have an impact on health when exceeded. Inrae researchers in collaboration with Inserm, Toulouse III-Paul Sabatier University and the National Veterinary School of Toulouse have shown that cocktail effects occur when deoxynivalenol, a mycotoxin, is in contact with other toxins. This work may have an impact on the regulation of these molecules in certain products.

Interview with Isabelle Oswald, director at the INRAE ​​​​​​Occitanie-Toulouse research center.

What is a mycotoxin?

Mycotoxins are toxins produced by microscopic fungi, commonly called molds.

What do you know about their danger?

These toxins are actually dangerous to both humans and animals. The different molds produce different mycotoxins, which have a wide range of effects. Some, like aflatoxins, are carcinogenic, others are endocrine disruptors. There are also mycotoxins that affect the immune system, the gut.

Also read:
Toulouse: Isabelle Oswald receives the Grand Prix for Agronomic Research for her detection of fungal toxins in our food

which is regulated. Why ?

There are many mycotoxins. Among all the most dangerous mycotoxins or those that are most present are regulated. We list 6 for human consumption and one for animal feed.

Together with other scientists, you have studied deoxynivalenol in contact with other molecules…

Deoxynivalenol (DON) is the most common mycotoxin in our diet. European data show that around 50% of cereals are contaminated with these toxins. Fortunately mostly at levels below regulation. French and European data show that approx. 80% of individuals are exposed to DON, some (and especially children) at doses close to or even higher than the tolerable daily dose.

What have you learned during your studies?

We had already analyzed the toxic effects of deoxynivalenol and in particular showed that this toxin had effects on the gut and on the immune system. We had also shown a cocktail effect between deoxynivalenol and other mycotoxins. This study shows a cocktail effect between deoxynivalenol and other pollutants. In particular, we have shown that DON increases the effects of various genotoxins (molecules that damage DNA) in vitro. For example, we were interested in a pesticide (captan), a toxin produced by our microbiota (colibactin) or drugs.

Further experiments need to be carried out. What purpose?

We are now working in two directions: verifying that the results obtained in vitro are also observed in vivo, by working on animal models, and continuing to work on the risks associated with simultaneous exposure to deoxynivalenol and food genotoxins in a broad sense.

Is the cocktail effect you observed dangerous to humans and animals?

The cocktail effects are dangerous, we knew the cocktail effects between mycotoxins. We have shown a cocktail effect between mycotoxins and other food contaminants. These effects can significantly change our DNA and thus promote the development of cancer.

If your work demonstrates this cocktail effect, what will the implications be for the composition of certain products?

We need to better understand the effects of mycotoxins and especially the cocktail effects. This may contribute to the definition of risks and toxicological reference values ​​and may therefore ultimately have an effect on regulations.



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