Author(s): Meggs WJ
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Abstract Molds are ubiquitous throughout the biosphere of planet earth and cause infectious, allergic, and toxic diseases. Toxic diseases arise from exposure to mycotoxins produced by molds. Throughout history, there have been a number of toxic epidemics associated with exposure to mycotoxins. Acute epidemics of ergotism are caused by consumption of grain infested by fungi of the genus Claviceps, which produce the bioactive amine ergotamine that mimics the neurotransmitters norepinephrine, serotonin, and dopamine. Acute aflatoxin outbreaks have occurred from ingestion of corn stored in damp conditions that potentiate growth of the molds of the species Aspergillus. Contemporary construction methods that use cellulose substrates such as fiber board and indoor moisture have caused an outbreak of contaminated buildings with Stachybotrys chartarum, with the extent of health effects still a subject of debate and ongoing research. This article reviews several of the more prominent epidemics and discusses the nature of the toxins. Two diseases that were leading causes of childhood mortality in England in the 1970s and vanished with changing dietary habits, putrid malignant fever, and slow nervous fever were most likely toxic mold epidemics.
This article was published in Toxicol Ind Health
and referenced in Journal of Biomolecular Research & Therapeutics