High-Throughput Analysis at the Service of Farming: Screening of Mycotoxins

Food supplies depend largely on cattle, pig and other livestock. The health and breeding of these species are critical for local producers as well as for society in general. The food given to livestock comes mainly from gramineous plants such as maize, wheat, barley, oats, rye, etc. These plants, available in grain or silage, can be contaminated by mycotoxins which can be dangerous when ingested in large quantities by the animals. Food quality must be checked and controlled to minimize the risk of health problems in animals and humans.

Mycotoxins are produced by microscopic fungi (molds), such as Fusarium, and can contaminate grasses. An increase in mycotoxins can be observed, during the growing and harvesting seasons due to rain¹. Mycotoxins have very stable and low molecular weight, therefore, they even prevail when the mold has been eliminated. Deoxynivalenol (DON), also known as vomitoxin, and zearalenone (ZEN) are two of the major mycotoxins that cause severe health issues to livestock. DON can weaken the immune system, reduce the amount of milk produced by dairy cows and affect the appetite of livestock, limiting its growth².

It is important to develop analytical techniques to quantify the content of the  molecules found in grasses. Different analytical techniques are used to detect the presence of mycotoxins with more or less precision and LC analysis coupled with a mass spectrometer (LC-MS / MS) is the most accurate. However, the cost and duration of the analysis limit the systematic analysis of crops and fodder.

In order to increase the sampling rate and reduce the analysis costs, Phytronix has developed a method to detect DON and ZEN. The coupling of the Luxon Ion Source®, based on LDTD technology, with a tandem mass spectrometer allows to combine the MS’s accuracy and the sampling speed of the Luxon. Two extraction procedures were developed to extract the molecules from their matrices. A Liquid-liquid extraction with activated charcoal and silica powder is used for DON, while a solid phase extraction (SPE) is required for ZEN. The LDTD-MS/MS analysis is performed in less than 10 seconds. To evaluate the matrix effects, the molecules have been tested in a variety of matrices such as oats, veal fodder and cow fodder. Quantified concentrations have an accuracy varying from 82.5% to 114.5%. The method allows for quantification of concentrations below the European Union legislation’s threshold (2006/576/EC).³

Click here to discover our poster on Mycotoxins’ screening.

[1] J. Grajewski, A. Blajet-Kosicka, M. Twaruzek and R. Kosicki.. Occurrence of mycotoxins in Polish animal feed in years 2006-2009. Animal Physiology and Animal Nutrition, 96(5): 870-877, 2012.
[2] S. Pick and M. Vickers. Mycotoxin contamination in animal feed and forages. AHDB Beef & Lamb. Beefandlamb.ahdb.org.uk.
[3] 2006/576/EC. Commission Recommendation of 17 August 2006 on the presence of deoxynivalenol, zearalenone, ochratoxin A, T-2 and HT-2 and fumonisins in products intended for animal feeding.

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