Updated
June 2014

MYCOTOXINS

 

What are mycotoxins?
Mycotoxins are toxins produced by moulds and fungi that can be found on fresh pasture grasses and hay, or even on commercial feed items that have been improperly stored.  Virtually any feed item can potentially be infected by mycotoxins.  It is possible for some feeds to contain multiple species of fungal toxins that may interact; the overall toxicity could then increase to a greater extent than with individual separate mycotoxins.

 

How do mycotoxins affect horses?
Fungal endophytes can be present on pasture grasses such as tall fescue and perennial ryegrass, and have been found to cause vasoconstriction of the palmar artery.    As arterial vasoconstriction has been associated with laminitis, protecting the horse from exposure to alkaloid endophytes may play an important part in keeping horses sound.  See the link below under the ‘Recommended Reading’ heading, summarising the study, "Vasoconstriction in horses caused by endophyte-infected tall fescue seed is detected with Doppler ultrasonography,"  published in April 2013 in the Journal of Animal Science.

 

Other forms of mycotoxin poisoning can be very serious, even resulting in the death of the horse.  A wide range of clinical symptoms in horses vary from a subtle hindlimb ataxia, to obvious signs including respiratory, gastrointestinal, neurological, and reproductive problems.

 

Some common mycotoxins are shown on the chart below:

 MYCOTOXIN 

 COMMON SOURCES 

 SIGNS OF INFECTION INCLUDE

Aflatoxins  

Corn, soyameal, 

alfalfa pellets 

 Ataxia, tremors, fever, loss of appetite,

 haemorrhages, blood in feces or urine,

 colic, liver damage

     Ochratoxins 

Cereals, hay, grass

 Kidney damage

Deoxynivalenol

Cereals 

 Weight loss, reduced immunity, liver    damage, ataxia

Fumonisins

Cereals

 Equine leukoencephalomacia,  depression, head-pressing, ataxia,  staggers,  lameness, seizures

 Zearalenone 

 Cereals, hay, grass 

 Abortions, utrine haemorrhaging

Ergot alkaloids 

 Cereals, hay, grass 

 Pregnancy and foaling problems

Is there any way to protect horses from mycotoxins?
Ensuring that all feeds are completely free of mycotoxins is very difficult, and is often no fault of the feed producer. Contamination can occur after harvesting or shipping if ideal clean, dry, storage conditions are not maintained.   The harmful effects of mycotoxins may be reduced when toxin-binders are added to each feed.   The toxin-binders work by attaching to the mycotoxins in the horse’s gut so they cannot be absorbed; they are then harmlessly excreted.


Some research has been done which found that glucomannan polymer was able to prevent toxicity from fumosarium toxins and ergot alkaloids as it has a naturally high affinity and capacity for binding to mycotoxins. It has been used extensively throughout most livestock industries; it is inexpensive, safe, and can be added to feeds daily.    

Yeast Cell   (Saccharomyces Cerevisiae)

The yeast cell wall comprises between 35% to 40% of the total yeast cell

Glucomannan polymer is produced from the cell walls of inactivated baker’s yeast (Saccharomyces Cerevisiae) which has been grown by non-alcohol fermentation. The yeast cell walls are ruptured, extracted by centrifuge and then washed, dried and pasteurised.  The yeast cell wall comprises between 35% to 40% of the total yeast cell.

The outer yeast cell wall provides mannan proteins, often referred to as mannanoligosaccharides or MOS. Mannan cannot be digested by the animal, therefore it is available as a prebiotic nutrient for the beneficial bacteria or flora in the gut. The good flora then grow rapidly in the gut, providing the animal with an improved defence against harmful bacteria. A Prebiotic can be described as a biological agent that stimulates preventative activity within the gut of an animal.

 

The inner yeast cell wall provides B-glucan complex carbohydrates that have a naturally high capacity for adsorption of mycotoxins. Mycotoxins and harmful bacteria enter the animal’s gut and then attempt to bind to sugar compounds on the cells lining the gastrointestinal tract, an ideal location for subsequent colonization and reproduction. The binding process can be diverted away from the GI tract lining by the presence of glucomannans which attract and bind with the toxic substances. The glucomannans and their toxic load are then harmlessly expelled by the gut along with normal waste material.

‘Mycoglannan’ is a brand of glucomannan polymer manufactured in Europe and sold in Australia.  The recommended dosage rate is 20g per day. As the product is non-toxic,  many horse owners have found it helpful to give their horses double that amount (or even more) at high-risk times of the year such as during cool, damp conditions which are favoured by most fungi.   Mycotoxin contamination of pasture is less likely during  hot, dry summer weather conditions.

Photosensitsation

Fungal mycotoxins are thought to be the cause of some cases of photosensitisation in horses.  

 

The photodynamic pigments present within the fungal mycotoxin are ingested by the horse from pasture grasses or contaminated hay or feed.   The pigments are absorbed through the gut wall, enter the boodstream and circulate to the skin where they are exposed to UV light in areas of thin, non-pigmented skin such as muzzle and pasterns.   The pigments react to the UV light by fluorescing which causes oxidative damage to the cells of the skin.

 

The resulting sores are painful, often being mistaken for sunburn. Greasy-heel and mud fever may also be caused by photosentisation.

 



Recommended reading:

 

Molds and Mycotoxins In Horse Feed: Basic Facts 
H.V.L.N. Swamy, DVM, PhD November 11 2010, Article # 17233
 

 

 

Malicious Mycotoxins 
Karen Briggs,  August 01 2002, Article # 3695 
 

 

 

New Tool Detects Effects of Endophytic Alkaloid Consumption
Kristen M. Janicki, MS, PAS MAY 19, 2013
 

Poison Plants in the Pasture

D. Bennett, PhD

e-book

Photosensitization in the Horse

Heather Smith Thomas, Jul 01, 2005

http://www.thehorse.com/articles/15248/photosensitization-in-the-horse

 

WHERE TO BUY TOXIN BINDER

 

Go to the SUPPLIERS page for information about where to buy toxin binder in your country.

Any queries that arise after reading everything on this site can be directed to:

 Gravelproofhoof@icloud.com

DISCLAIMER 

All information on this site is intended for educational purposes only and should not be taken as nutritional advice for any horse.  Notwithstanding that the author has made every attempt to ensure the information is accurate and based on fact, it is not intended to be used as a diagnostic tool and you should seek your own veterinary or other professional advice for any health or other concerns.  The purpose of this website is merely to facilitate the sharing of knowledge and information based on the author's research.  The author is not and will not be liable for any harm, loss or damage of whatsoever nature and howsoever caused and the author does not warrant the information is suitable for your individual needs.  Use of the information published on this website is at your own risk.