Mycotoxins are produced by molds that contaminate staple foods. From studies of biological mechanisms and also longitudinal studies in Africa, there is reason to believe that certain of these toxins may affect child health and development. The problem to be addressed by this planning grant is: how to create strong evidence on the causal role (or lack thereof) of mycotoxins in child health and stunting, while also confronting the constraining realities of logistics, community engagement, and research ethics.
Given the high prevalence of human exposure to these toxins, their plausible causal role in stunting, and the urgent need to elucidate additional non-nutritional causes of stunting, this planning grant will prepare a team of scientists to implement the first experimental trial of mycotoxin mitigation to provide causal evidence of the importance of mycotoxins to child health and growth in the first 1000 days of life. This planning grant will focus on aflatoxins (AF) and fumonisins (FUM) because they are the most potent mycotoxins widely studied in animals, humans, and food systems, and are known to be highly prevalent in African food supply. We will also consider a third mycotoxin, deoxynevalenol (DON), as a covariate within our study. We will synthesize scientific, regulatory, and logistical information, as well as ethical considerations for key decisions.
Funding: Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Smith LE, Stasiewicz M, Hestrin R, Morales S, Mutiga S, Nelson R.J. Examining environmental drivers of spatial variability in aflatoxin accumulation in Kenyan maize: Potential utility in risk prediction models. African Journal of Food, Agriculture, Nutrition and Development. 2016 Aug.