The effects of mycotoxins on poultry intestinal health

We discover the direct negative effects that mycotoxins have on the fragile intestinal microbiota and the poultry intestinal epithelium with Guillermo Téllez Isaías (University of Arkansas).

Guillermo Téllez Isaías

Department of Poultry Science. University of Arkansas, USA

When we think of fungi, we probably think of mushrooms, but these are just fruiting bodies, analogous to apples on a tree.

Most fungi live out of sight, but they constitute a massively diverse kingdom of organisms that support and sustain almost all living systems.

The more we learn about fungi, the less sense life makes without them!

Fungi challenge our concepts of individuality and even intelligence. They can change our minds, heal our bodies and even help us remedy environmental disasters.

This hidden world of fungi ranges from yeast to psychedelics.

There are fungi that extend miles underground and are the largest organisms on the planet, linking plants in complex networks known as Suzanne Simard’s “Wood Wide Web”.

There are even fungi that infiltrate and manipulate insect bodies with devastating precision.

The diversity of taxa included in the group is poorly studied.

It is estimated that there are about 3.8 million species, of which only 5% have been classified.

However, among these species, 5 fungi are responsible for producing toxic substances that have a very important economic and health impact on animals and humans.

Secondary metabolites produced by fungi, known as mycotoxins, are capable of causing mycotoxicosis (disease and death).

The threat of mycotoxins

The contamination of feed and food products with fungi occurs frequently and is accompanied by the presence of mycotoxins:

  • Trichothecenes
  • Zearalenone
  • Fumonisins
  • Ochratoxins
  • Aflatoxins

These mycotoxins have toxic and bactericidal effects on the intestinal microbiota, as well as negative effects on intestinal integrity due to their effect on enterocytes, goblet cells, neurons and immune cells that are part of the gut-associated lymphoid tissue.

The impact of mycotoxins on the intestinal microbiota

Certainly, mycotoxins cause disturbances in the intestine, particularly in the intestinal epithelium.

Recent studies suggest that there is a bidirectional relationship between mycotoxins and gut microbiota, suggesting that our gut microbiota may be involved in the development of mycotoxicosis.

A healthy gut microbiota is largely responsible for the overall condition of the host and is able to eliminate mycotoxins naturally, provided the host is healthy with a eubiotic balance of the gut microbiota.

The consequences of an altered microbiota result in an imbalance known as dysbacteriosis, which is generally associated with intestinal inflammation.

Considering that 80% of the immune cells are located in the intestinal mucosa, damage-causing chronic inflammation in the intestine is associated with 90% of animal pathologies.

The most important damage is an increase in intestinal permeability (“leaky gut”), which favors the translocation of bacteria and other antigens into the blood, creating a state of generalized chronic inflammation.

This situation affects all cells of the animal’s tissues and organs. Therefore, chronic inflammation in the intestine is associated with different pathologies such as neurological problems, autoimmune diseases, metabolic diseases, arthritis, etc.

Mycotoxins not only cause liver damage and alterations in protein synthesis, DNA damage and immunosuppression but also have a direct negative effect on the fragile intestinal microbiota and intestinal epithelium.

In high-performance production animals, such as laying hens or broilers, these metabolic, immunological and inflammatory effects have a direct impact on weight gain and productivity of the birds.

Micotoxicosis prevention
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