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The Use of Mycotoxin Deactivators to Reduce the Effects of Mycotoxins on Pig Growth, Organ Health and Immune Status during Chronic Exposure

28 April 2017


More than a century ago, plant pathologists in Europe and the United States associated wheat head blight with infections by Fusarium graminearum (F. graminearum), which produces deoxynivalenol (DON) and Nivalenol (NIV). F. graminearum is a plant pathogen which causes fusarium head blight, a devastating disease on wheat and barley.

The pathogen is responsible for billions of dollars in economic losses worldwide each year. F. graminearum infection causes shifts in the amino acid composition of wheat, resulting in shriveled kernels and contaminating the remaining grain with mycotoxins, mainly DON, which inhibits protein biosynthesis; and zearalenone. During World War II, consumption of over-wintered grain contaminated by F. sporotrichioides and related species caused alimentary toxic aleukia and deaths of hundreds of thousands of people in the former Soviet Union. During the 1970s in Japan, F. graminearum caused severe epidemics of akakabi-byo (red mold disease) on green wheat and other grains. People who ate products containing such contaminated grains typically developed nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, hemorrhaging, anemia, and other symptoms of trichothecene toxicosis. In 1972, Japanese scientists were successful in identifying DON and NIV in grain infected with F. graminearum (Desjardins, 2003). Japanese researchers named it “Rd-toxin” (Moorooka et al., 1972). Shortly thereafter, the same mycotoxin was isolated from maize associated with emesis in pigs and given the name vomitoxin (Vesonder et al., 1973).

Only animals and their health, immune, and fertility status as well as presence of biomarkers in blood, urine, meat, eggs or milk will reveal the real effect of mycotoxin mycotoxin deactivator.
The objective of this study was to determine the combined effects of DON, aflatoxin B1 (AfB1) and fumonisins (FUM) in naturally contaminated feed on growth, organ health and immune responses of pigs. The efficacy of two different types of feed additives (mycotoxin deactivators) in reducing the effects of the mycotoxins was also investigated.

One hundred and eighty (180) gilts with an initial body weight of 8.8 ± 0.4 kg were housed at the NCSU Swine Evaluation Station (Clayton, North Carolina, USA) and acclimatized for 6 days. The pigs were split into four treatments (15 replicas/treatment, 3 pigs/pen).

  1. Control: good quality feed
  2. Mycotoxins: 150 μg/kg AfB1, 1100 μg/kg DON, 3000 μg/kg FUM
  3. Mycotoxins + UNIKE® Plus: Mycotoxins + 1.5 kg/t UNIKE® Plus
  4. Mycotoxins + Product B: Mycotoxins + 1.1 kg/t of a clay + enzyme based mycotoxin deactivator

Feed based on maize naturally contaminated with AfB1 and barley naturally contaminated with DON was given to the gilts from groups 2, 3 and 4 for 42 days. Blood was collected on days 0, 28 and 42 for evaluation of immune parameters (IgG, IgM, and TNFα). At day 42, the animals were euthanized and the liver, kidneys, and spleen were weighed. The liver was evaluated for color and histological damage.


In the first 3 weeks of this study, there was no significant difference in body weight between the pigs in the 4 treatment groups (Fig.1). During the 6 week period, the body weight of the pigs that consumed the diet containing additives was higher than that of those that consumed the contaminated feed. UNIKE® Plus showed the best performance in the last 2 weeks of the trial and at least 40% of the weight lost was recovered Product B recovered only 11% of the weight lost.

Figure 1. Live weight (kg)

Mycotoxins significantly influenced the average daily gain and feed conversion ratio (FCR) of piglets (Fig. 2). An improvement in both parameters was shown with UNIKE® Plus whilst minimum changes were observed with Product B. Final weight (day 42) of gilts treated with UNIKE® Plus was 500 g higher in comparison with gilts treated with Product B.

Figure 2. Average daily weight gain (g/day) and FCR
a–b Means with different superscripts differ (0.05 ≤ p < 0.10)

On day 42, pigs consuming mycotoxins appeared to have increased IgG and IgM, whereas pigs consuming feed mixed with both products had intermediate IgG and IgM compared to the levels in the pigs in the mycotoxin group and the uncontaminated control (Table 1). Mycotoxins caused an increase in the weight of the liver (Table 2). UNIKE® Plus significantly reduced this effect such that the liver weights were similar to those in the control. Minolta color measurements of liver yellowness tended to be increased in pigs fed feed additives, especially product B. Pigs fed DON, AfB1 and FUM had increased hepatic bile ductile hyperplasia and UNIKE® Plus had the strongest ability to reduce the effects of the mycotoxins on the liver.


Collectively, UNIKE® Plus reduced mycotoxin effects on the immune system and the liver and showed some ability to improve growth while Product B played a role in reducing liver damage (Weaver et al., 2013). Although both additives used in the diets of this experiment reduced the mycotoxin effects on performance, tissue status and immune system compared to the control, the reduction of the negative effects was significantly greater with UNIKE® Plus.
The results of above mentioned study indicate that the use of effective mycotoxin control offers an opportunity to significantly improve animal health and performance. The application of specific feed additives (mycotoxin deactivators) which are able to help reduce the negative effects of different mycotoxins in swine is highly recommended. Recent NUTRIAD web application - MYCOMAN® informs the user about mycotoxin challenges and based on the challenge levels calculates the necessary and effective dosage of NUTRIAD mycotoxin deactivators product line. MYCOMAN is currently available for free online from Android Play Store (Google) and iOS (App store).

1. Desjardins A.E., Trichothecenes: from Yellow Rain to Green Wheat. ASM News / Volume 69, Number 4, 2003.
2. Moorooka, N., Uratsuji, N., Yoshizawa, T., Yamamoto, H., 1972. Studies on the toxic substances in barley infected with Fusarium spp. J. Food Hyg. Soc. Jpn. 13, 368–375.
3. Vesonder, R.F., Ciegler, A., Jensen, A.H., 1973. Isolation of the emetic principle from Fusarium-infected corn. Appl. Microbiol. 26, 1008–1010.
4. A.C. Weaver , M. Todd See , Jeff A. Hansen , Yong B. Kim , Anna L. P. De Souza , Tina F. Middleton , Sung Woo Kim. The use of feed additives to reduce the effects of aflatoxin
and deoxynivalenol on pig growth, organ health and immune status during chronic exposure. Toxins 2013, 5, 1261-1281.

Radka Borutova, DVM, PhD, Nutriad International

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