As If Africa Didn’t Have Enough to Worry About

As If Africa Didn’t Have Enough to Worry About

Aflatoxin is one of the worst, most lethal cancer-causing toxins known to man. It is a mycotoxin, whihc means that it is made by a fungus or a mold. It occurs naturally, produced by certain types of molds (Aspergillus flavus Рget it? Aspergillus FLAvus toxin).  The mold grows on certain types of grains and if you eat the grain, the toxin is metabolized in the liver and causes severe liver injury with necrosis of the liver, leading to cirrhosis and liver cancer. Not a pleasant way to die. If aflatoxins are contaminating a lot of the grain in Sub-Saharan Africa, there is sure to be famine or if the people get desperate enough to eat the contaminated grain, there will be a humanitarian health crisis as they start to die from liver disease. Big trouble brewing. The microscopic appearance of the mold is pretty beautiful, though.

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B0004844 SEM Aspergillus mould producing spores (conidia) Credit: David Gregory&Debbie Marshall. Wellcome Images Scanning electron micrograph of Aspergillus producing spores, computer-coloured green. The picture shows an Aspergillus conidiophore with conidia (spores) budding off (tissues stained blue). Aspergillus is a genus of ascomycetes, some species of which cause aspergillosus or severe asthmatic reactions in humans; other species have industrial uses, e.g. in the processing of soybeans and the fermentation of sake. Scanning electron micrograph 2003 Published:  -  Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons by-nc-nd 2.0 UK, see

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Written by Poison Boy

Gerry O'Malley (a.k.a Poison Boy) is a board certified ER doctor and toxicologist with a interest in the unusual, terrifying and occasionally hilarious world of poisonings and toxicology. This site is an exploration of poisons of historical interest as well as in current events and pop culture.

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