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J Vet Pharmacol Ther. 2006 Apr;29(2):79-90.

Immunotoxic activity of ochratoxin A.

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Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Institute of Pharmacology and Toxicology, Justus-Liebig-University Giessen, Giessen, Germany.


Ochratoxin A (OTA) is an immunosuppressant fungal compound, produced by toxigenic species of Aspergillus and Penicillium fungi in a wide variety of climates and geographical regions. The contamination of food by this mycotoxin takes place primarily during preharvest periods. Almost all types of food can be contaminated. In addition, its chemical stability against heat and during industrial food processing makes OTA one of the most abundant food contaminating mycotoxins. Due in part to its long serum half-life in man, almost 100% of all human blood samples from some geographic regions may be positive for OTA. The immunosuppressant activity of OTA is characterized by size reduction of vital immune organs, such as thymus, spleen, and lymph nodes, depression of antibody responses, alterations in the number and functions of immune cells, and modulation of cytokine production. The immunotoxic activity of OTA probably results from degenerative changes and cell death following necrosis and apoptosis, in combination with slow replacement of affected immune cells, due to inhibition of protein synthesis.

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