Aspergillus flavus: the major producer of aflatoxin

Authors


Correspondence: Tel.: +1 504 286 4361, Fax: +1 504 286 4533; E-mail: mklich@srrc.ars.usda.gov

SUMMARY

Aspergillus flavus is an opportunistic pathogen of crops. It is important because it produces aflatoxin as a secondary metabolite in the seeds of a number of crops both before and after harvest. Aflatoxin is a potent carcinogen that is highly regulated in most countries. In the field, aflatoxin is associated with drought-stressed oilseed crops including maize, peanut, cottonseed and tree nuts. Under the right conditions, the fungus will grow and produce aflatoxin in almost any stored crop seed. In storage, aflatoxin can be controlled by maintaining available moisture at levels below that which will support growth of A. flavus. A number of field control measures are being utilized or explored, including: modification of cultural practices; development of resistant crops through molecular and proteomic techniques; competitive exclusion using strains that do not produce aflatoxin; and development of field treatments that would block aflatoxin production.

Taxonomy: Aspergillus flavus Link (teleomorph unknown) kingdom Fungi, phyllum Ascomycota, order Eurotiales, class Eurotiomycetes, family Trichocomaceae, genus Aspergillus, species flavus.

Host range: Aspergillus flavus has a broad host range as an opportunistic pathogen/saprobe. It is an extremely common soil fungus. The major concern with this fungus in agriculture is that it produces highly carcinogenic toxins called aflatoxins which are a health hazard to animals. In the field, A. flavus is predominantly a problem in the oilseed crops maize, peanuts, cottonseed and tree nuts. Under improper storage conditions, A. flavus is capable of growing and forming aflatoxin in almost any crop seed. It also is a pathogen of animals and insects. In humans it is predominantly an opportunistic pathogen of immunosuppressed patients.

Useful websites: http://www.aspergillusflavus.org, http://www.aflatoxin.info/health.asp, plantpathology.tamu.edu/aflatoxin, http://www.aspergillus.org.uk

Ancillary