The contamination of feedstuffs with mycotoxins poses a serious threat to the health and productivity of animals.

Mycotoxicoses are animal or human diseases caused by mycotoxin ingestion, inhalation or skin-contact. The effects of mycotoxicoses in animals are diverse, varying from immune suppression to death in severe cases, depending on toxin-related (type of mycotoxin consumed, level and duration of intake), animal-related (species, sex, age, breed, general health, immune status, nutritional standing) and environmental (farm management, hygiene, temperature) factors.

Mycotoxins have different effects on the various organs and in the animal productivity and health. Below a simple explanation of the terms that will be used to describe the effects of mycotoxins in animals is given:

when one or more functions of the immune system are suppressed, resulting in an impaired resistance to infectious agents.
Hematopoietic Effects:
hematopoiesis refers to the production of all types of bloods cells from the primitive cells (stem cells) in the bone marrow. The dysfunction of hematopoiesis leads firstly to the decrease of production of neutrophils (white cells that help the cell to kill and digest microorganisms engulfed by phagocytosis), thus perturbing the animals’ immune system and subsequently to the decrease of red blood cells, leading to anemia.
Hepatotoxic Effects:
hepatotoxicity refers to liver damage caused by toxic substances.
Nephrotoxic Effects:
nephrotoxicity refers to kidney damage caused by toxic substances. Nephropathy is the term used to describe kidney inflammation.
Reproductive Effects:
involve all the negative impacts in the reproductive system and in reproduction.
Teratogenic Effects:
refer to birth defects, both structural and functional, caused to the newborn.
Neurotoxic Effects:
when the nervous system is affected.
Carcinogenic Effects:
involve the promotion of cancer and of the spread of cancer cells.
Dermal Effects:
Dermal toxicity involves all the damage caused to the skin by toxic substances.
Gastro-intestinal Effects:
involve all the effects which are caused in the gastro-intestinal tract.
Performance Effects:
involve the changes in performance that can be detected by lower daily weight gain, poor feed conversion rates, lower production (eggs, milk) and decreased feed intake.
Pathological Effects:
pathology refers to the study of organs in order to examine the effects of a certain disease. Changes from the normal appearance of a certain organ are known as pathological changes.
refer to the mycotoxin carry-over into blood and muscles which may and often lead to residues in animal products such as meat and eggs.

Effects of mycotoxins on the health of pigs

Information on the tables regarding the effects and symptoms of mycotoxins on animals was gathered from various sources. Field trials and scientific and laboratory research have been performed throughout the years leading to different discoveries and achievements in the mycotoxins field. Nevertheless, it should not be forgotten that mycotoxin contaminations are very complex in nature.

Some factors which complicate the process of dealing with mycotoxins are:
- Mycotoxins affect more than one system simultaneously, therefore producing a multiplicity of responses in the affected animals. This makes it harder to attribute the response to a single body system.

- The effects observed are not necessarily unique to a given mycotoxin but may be shared by other toxins and pathogenic organisms, making it harder to establish a cause-effect relationship for individual mycotoxins.

- Data gathered in experimental studies differ from the natural intoxications where there are many other factors (mentioned above) that can influence the disease condition. Also naturally caused mycotoxicoses are often more complex than those created in experimental studies due to the interactions between mycotoxins.

Due to these factors, it is possible that symptoms different to those presented below occur in animals. Younger animals are generally more susceptible to the toxic effects of all mycotoxins.

Mycotoxicoses in pigs

    Effects Signs/Symptoms
Aflatoxins Swine Carcinogenic effects Higher incidence of cancer in exposed animals
Immunosuppression Decreased resistance to environmental and microbial stressors
Increased susceptibility to diseases
Decreased performance Reduced feed intake
Feed refusal
Impaired FCR
Hepatotoxic effects Toxic hepatitis
Nephrotoxic effects Kidney inflammation
Hematopoietic effects Systemic hemorrhages
Residues Residues and metabolites in liver and milk

    Effects Signs/Symptoms
Ochratoxin A Swine Decreased performance Reduced weight gain
Impaired FCR
Increased mortality
Nephrotoxic effects Kidney damage (porcine nephropathy)
Increased water consumption
Kidney and bladder dysfunction
Altered urine excretion (wet beds)
Hepatotoxic effects Liver damage
Gastro-intestinal effects Diarrhea
Immunosuppression Decreased resistance to environmental and microbial stressors
Increased susceptibility to diseases
Residues Residues present in the kidneys, liver and meat

    Effects Signs/Symptoms
Trichothecenes Swine Gastro-intestinal effects  (DON) Vomiting
(T-2 toxin)
Decreased resistance to environmental and microbial stressors
Increased susceptibility to diseases
Affects immune cells and modifies immune response
Decreased performance Feed refusal
Decreased weight gain
Impaired FCR
Hematopoietic effects Hemorrhages
Hematological disorders
Teratogenic effects Splaylegs
Dermal effects Oral and dermal lesions

    Effects Signs/Symptoms
Zearalenone Female swine Reproductive effects Affected reproduction cycle, conception, ovulation and implantation
Pseudo pregnancy, abortion, anoestrus, nymphomania
Embryonic death, inhibition of fetal development, decreased number of fetuses (reduced litter size)
Enlargement of mammary glands
Swelling and reddening of vulva
Rectal and vaginal prolapse
Pathological changes Atrophy of ovaries
Uterus hypertrophy
Male swine Reproductive effects Feminization
Enlargement of mammary glands
Impaired semen quality
Testicular atrophy
Swollen prepuce
Piglets Reproductive effects Reddened teats (females)
Swelling and reddening of vulva (females)
Teratogenic effects Splaylegs

    Effects Signs/Symptoms
Fumonisins Swine Immunosuppression Decreased resistance to environmental and microbial stressors
Increased susceptibility to diseases
Pulmonary and cardiovascular effects Porcine pulmonary edema (PPE)
Pathological changes Pancreatic necroses
Hematopoietic effects Hematological disorders
Hepatotoxic effects Liver damage
Residues Residues in kidneys and liver

    Effects Signs/Symptoms
Ergot Alkaloids Pigs Neurotoxic effects Low prolactin production
Low colostrum production
Decreased performance Reduced weight gain
Reproductive effects Shrunken udders
Signs of estrus
Reduced pregnancy rate
Pathological changes Vasoconstriction
Ear, tail and hoofs necrosis

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