Mycotoxins in ruminant livestock: gut health and the hidden threat from ergot alkaloids

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It has been suggested in the literature that when considering taxonomic classes of pathogens, fungi pose the greatest threat to animal and plant health (Fisher et al., 2012). One rationale for this is the harmful effects that mycotoxins exert on animals. Mycotoxins are low molecular weight, secondary fungal metabolites. They are commonly produced by the mycotoxigenic species of fungi belonging to the genera Aspergillus, Fusarium, Penicillium and Claviceps spp. and contaminate crops and forages both pre and post-harvest. However, mycotoxin production is not limited to the aforementioned genera of fungi but is extended to species belonging to the Alternaria, Chaetomium, Cladosporium, Diplodia and Trichoderma genera, to name a few (Gallo et al., 2015). When appropriate environmental conditions for fungal growth are presented, crops can become infected with fungi and consequently contaminated with mycotoxins. When an animal is exposed to mycotoxins, through either inhalation, skin contact or predominantly ingestion, then health, productivity and fertility can all be adversely affected, significantly increasing the cost of production. 


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