Mycotoxin and the Microbiome

While working on an email response to a reader’s question about mold/mycotoxins, I found this 2018 article: Mycotoxin: Its Impact on Gut Health and Microbiota.

Evidence of disturbance on gut microbiota modulation induced by mycotoxin only had been studied on animal and the results have been summarized (Table ​(Table1).1). The changes in gut microbiota can be observed up to species level in some of the studies using advance molecular approaches. However, the compositions of gut microbiota are greatly influenced by various factors during the experiment. Confounding factors affecting microbial composition and function may include diet (Cani and Everard, 2016), the exposure of environmental chemical and antibiotics (Claus et al., 2017), genetic background (Goodrich et al., 2016b), as well as the mental health condition (stress) of the host (Karl et al., 2017). These factors can explain that the microbiota in same species may not be able to reduce the level of mycotoxins. Besides, the changes in gut microbiota due to the presence of mycotoxin may contribute by some uncontrolled variables. 

Mycotoxin: Its Impact on Gut Health and Microbiota.

The highlighted text above is echo in natural observations. For example avocado cannot be handle by some bird species, chocolate and xylitol to dogs [src]. I suspect the same for humans — depending on the microbiome / DNA, sensitivity to mold is high in some and safely decomposed in others.

This may be due to explicit strains or epigenetic side-effects:

Interestingly, a study showed the ability to metabolize DON can be obtained via gut microbiota transfer in swine. However, the transfer of gut microbiota revealed no changes in the DNA-profiles of the gut bacterial composition (Eriksen et al., 2002).

Bacteria Able to Transform some toxins

From the above article, we have:

  • Anaerofilum, Bacillus Clostridiales, and Collinsella (Yu H. et al., 2010).
  • a significant increase of Bacteroides/Prevotella group and decreased concentration levels of Escherichia coli were observed after feeding the rats  with Deoxynivalenol  (DON)
  • The first study on the effect of Zearalenone (ZEA) on gut microbiota has been carried out by Piotrowska et al. (2014). …  the data showed the concentration of Clostridium perfringens, Enterobacteriaceae, and E. coli was significantly reduced 
  • showed that Lactobacillus reuteri present during the start-up period, was permanently disappeared at the end of the Ochratoxin A treatment period accompanied by some minor changes in the bifidobacteria population… the relative abundance of Lactobacillaceae was increased whereas the Bacteroidaceae was decreased. 
  • The exposure of gilts to ZEA and DON was found to pose an adverse impact on mesophilic aerobic bacteria. In particular, the amounts of C. perfringens, E. coli, and other bacteria in the family Enterobacteriaceae were reduced significantly after the 6th week of the experiment (P < 0.05)… , a study confirmed AF and fumonisin mixture increased Shiga Toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) level in fecal   


Prohep [Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG, heat-inactivated VSL#3, and viable E. coli Nissle 1917 (1:1:1)] successfully relieved the microbial imbalance and hepatic inflammation, which further decreased liver tumor growth (Li et al., 2016).  A human study by El-Nezami et al. (2006) demonstrated a statistically significant decrease (up to 55% at 5th week; P < 0.05) of urinary AFB-N7-guanine level in the probiotic (L. rhamnosus LC705 and Propionibacterium freudenreichii subsp. shermanii) mixture group compared to the placebo group. Similar finding was found by Mohd Redzwan et al. (2016) where serum AFB1-lys level were significantly lower (P < 0·05) in the Lactobacillus casei Shirota supplemented individuals. Besides, hepatic transcriptome in AFB1-induced HCC was positively altered by probiotics (Monson et al., 2015).

Bottom Line

From the above excellent review, I would infer the following treatment options:

  • For mold exposure, a FMT from a person subject to the same mold exposure that did not react. Why: They likely have bacteria that is able to decompose the toxins. The logic is akin to using serum from a survivor of an infection.
  • The following probiotics (I have ranked order them by my personal preference)
    1. Mutaflor – E.Coli Nissle 1917: Why: This is a robust probiotic that inhibits Shiga Toxin-producing E. coli (STEC)
    2. Lactobacillus casei Shirota (see this post on Yakult)
    3. Propionibacterium freudenreichii  (see this post)
    4. Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG (see this post “A MCS Probiotic?“)

The full text of the article is here, with links to earlier studies in the margin.