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PLoS One. 2013 Aug 20;8(8):e71423. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0071423. eCollection 2013.

Case report evidence of relationships between hepatocellular carcinoma and ochratoxicosis.

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Department of Biochemistry, Faculty of Pharmacy, Mansoura University, Mansoura, Egypt.



The incidence of Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is on the rise, but what is causing that trend has remained a mystery. Mycotoxins are almost entirely ignored health problems, and sometimes actually naively belittled in advanced medical care. Ochratoxin A (OTA) is one of the most abundant food contaminating mycotoxins worldwide that is carcinogenic, but no studies have evaluated its levels in HCC patients. Therefore, this study was designed to monitor the presence of OTA in the serum of HCC patients and to quantify the strength of the association between OTA and HCC.


We conducted a case control-based study on 61 participants. Thirty-nine were HCC cases identified between 2010 and 2012 and individually matched by age, sex, residence and date of recruitment to 22 healthy controls. Serum OTA and alpha-fetoprotein levels were measured by using high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, respectively.


HPLC analysis of 61 serum samples indicated that the highest incidence of elevated OTA was found in the HCC group and was 5-fold higher than in the control group. The concentration of OTA in the HCC group ranged between 0.129 and 10.93 ng/mL with a mean value±SD of 1.1±0.3 ng/mL, while in the normal group it ranged between 0.005 and 0.50 ng/mL with a mean value±SD of 0.201±0.02 ng/mL. The odds ratio for HCC patients presenting OTA levels above the cut-off of 0.207 (calculated by the receiver operating characteristic curve) was 9.78 (95% confidence interval = 2.9095-32.9816, P = 0.0002) with respect to normal controls, suggesting that HCC is 9.8 times as frequent in the exposed group to OTA.


Our results reveal a strong association between the presence of OTA and HCC, which may offer a coherent explanation for much of the descriptive epidemiology of HCC and suggest new avenues for analytical research.

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