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Aspergillus and Toxins

Indoor molds can produce toxic substances called mycotoxins.

They can be found on the outside of the spores or inside -- ready to be zapped into the air by silly air cleaners. Dr. Richard Cone has identified over 300 mycotoxins, and this is certainly not a full list. You can have any one of hundreds of symptoms, but fatigue, read eyes, foggy thinking, sniffles, coughing, skin itching, eccentric skin sensations are common.

Mycotoxins can cause mild illness or over time they can kill you. They have been looked at as biological war agents, esp. by Iraq in the last decade.

In a vacuum or air filter sample off a HEPA, you will often find types of Aspergillus, Penicillium and Cladosporium. Each makes toxins. Other toxic molds I see on indoor mold samples include Alternaria, Trichoderma, Fusarium, Paecilomyces, Chaetomium, and Acremonium.

But the most famous fungus is called "black mold," a mold that really should not ever be found inside a home, and is officially called "Stachy" or Stachybotrys chartarum. In another article, I discuss this mold. In this article, I want to discuss Aspergillus.

This mold has about 200 different types. They produce the following sample toxins:

Aflatoxins -- used in Iraq as a cancer agent for warfare and in very low amounts in our food.



Aspergillus flavus and Asp. parasiticus make aflatoxins.

Many species of Aspergillus (and Penicillium) make ochratoxins.

Aspergillus versicolor makes sterigmatocystin.

Aflatoxin B1 is one of the most potent carcinogens known, especially lung and liver cancer. Aflatoxin B1 has been found in some nuts, grains, and other foods. Some research involving African and Southeast Asia patients, note significant liver cancer and high aflatoxins in the diet.

Aflatoxin is in many foods but apparently at very minimal levels. If a person had an exposure, though, I am not so sure it would be noticed fast. It should be considered if:

  1. No cause is found
  2. Antibiotics or other drugs have no expected benefit
  3. Mold promoting weather is present or associated with food.

* Acute illness can cause spontaneous bleeding, liver damage, swelling, gut digestion trouble, and rarely death.

* Long-term aflatoxins exposure is very hard to diagnosis. Some patients have slower growth and possible cancer formation. Since so many American physicians are used to cancer as common in medicine that using this as a marker to look for aflatoxins is unlikely.

M. Weidenborner's, Encyclopedia of Food Mycotoxins, shows that many foods have low levels of aflatoxins.

In the United States, aflatoxins have been identified in corn, corn products, peanuts, peanut butter, milk, cottonseed, and misc. nuts such as pecans, pistachio nuts, and walnuts.

Two Mechanisms of Aspergillus Toxin Attack

One type of Aspergillus, fumigatus, has spores that literally release a chemical in 120 seconds to stop the key immune power of macrophages. Its toxins also make the macrophage unable to make its chemicals or bullets to kill the spore. So instead of eating the spore, the macrophage is not able to function.

Another Aspergillus fumigatus toxin "gliotoxin" allows the fungus to grow in the human body by hindering the macrophages and other immune cells and other cells in the lungs, by following the spore's initial attack.

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