University of Wisconsin
Aspergillus infestation and subsequent aflatoxin (AF) contamination of peanuts remains a major worldwide concern due to the human and animal health consequences and economic and crop loss associated with such contamination. Unlike most fungal pathogens which simply result in crop loss, Aspergillus fungi also secrete AF and related mycotoxins such as sterigmatocystin (ST) into the peanut cotyledons and pods. Both AF and ST, which are products of the same biochemical pathway, are among the most potent naturally occurring carcinogens known to humankind and the adverse health effects caused by these mycotoxins are both short (teratogen and toxic) and long (mutagenic and carcinogenic) term. Recent studies have shown that ~70% of the liver cancer in Senegal, West Africa may be attributable to AF consumption; most likely from peanut contamination (although maize, cottonseed and other oil crops are also susceptible). AF/ST contamination originates in either field or storage environments. The money spent for health purposes and to survey, analyze and erect trade barriers due to AF contamination is enormous.