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#4938 - 10/03/01 05:30 PM Aflatoxin summary *

I've asked this question as a reply to a post but can't remember which one and I can't find it. I'm not sure whether I should be posting this on this section or health, but here goes:
What exactly are aflotoxins? From the bits and pieces I've picked up on posts, it comes from grains. Is this true? I don't know anything else about it so would appreciate any other helpful info.
The main reason I'd like to know, besides being informed about everything I possibly can, is because I'm going to start raising/breeding my own mealworms and possibly crickets. So I want to make sure I don't feed them anything or do anything that will cause harm to my gliders.
I've heard that mealworms eat wheat bran, but when I was at the feed store to get some, I noticed they had a bag of 'cricket and worm feed'. Does anyone know which is best? I called Grubco from the store and listed the ingredients. The woman who answered said it sounded ok but wasn't sure. I WANT TO BE SURE. I wish I had written down the ingredients and feel like an idiot for not doing so, but I remember it had 20% crude protein.

<small>[ 06-22-2002, 01:29 AM: Message edited by: Toni ]</small>

#4939 - 10/03/01 10:17 PM Re: Aflatoxin summary * [Re: ]

Aflatoxins are poisons produced by fungi which can grow under certain conditions. Aflatoxins are only one of many such mycotoxins that are prevalent in our environment. <BR> They are often found in places where there has been high humidity and under drought conditions. They are often found on grains and nuts (peanuts and corn are common culprits). Because fungi don't grow the same on every nut or piece of grain, there can be different concentrations of aflatoxins in any two peanuts or corn kernels. <P>You probably ingest some aflatoxins on a regular basis. People do sometimes get ill (occasionally die) from aflatoxin poisoning, but our food supply is tested to make sure levels are below a certain level deemed safe for humans. Again, because not every kernel or piece carries the same concentrations, it's difficult to test with complete accuracy. Testing is, by nature, spotty and random. <P>For animals, feed is also tested, but the levels of "allowed" aflatoxins are higher than in food for human consumption. <P>In recent months, in unrelated situations, a number of reptiles and gliders have been dying. When necropsies have been done, the livers of these animals often look a bit like an alcoholic's liver in humans -- fat, enlarged, damaged, cirrhotic....which seems to indicate that damage has been done over time, and that the glider didn't just get sick and die one day...though the SYMPTOMS would appear that way -- usually lethargy, loss of appetite, and then death within a few hours or days. It's an unusual pattern, especially occurring in unrelated animals and species. This caused those researching deaths to investigate aflatoxins, which present with the kind of liver damage mentioned above. <P>What has resulted is the discovery of concentrations of aflatoxins in the corn mash bedding of insects, primarily crickets. This is the prevalent theory right now. The theory is that the crickets eat the corn mash containing the aflatoxins, and the concentration of aflatoxins become metabolized in the cricket, which is then eaten by a glider. What is unknown is what concentration of aflatoxins a glider can tolerate. A researcher from Australia has noted that gliders probably have a very low tolerance for aflatoxins (maybe NONE). So even if the corn mash is tested for allowable levels, gliders eating crickets housed in corn mash could still be ingesting this fungus. <P>Many people here have stopped feeding insects for the time being. I still feed mealworms, but I know what farm they come from, and I know they are bedded in/fed oats, which pose less risk. Many of us will also not feed peanuts and soy products for the same reason -- at least until more is known. <P>I have never raised insects (voluntarily!), so I'm not sure I can advise you on what to do to make sure your insects will be safe. You can buy kits to test your grain, but apart from that, I'm not sure what to do. Maybe others have ideas. <P>It's important to note that the jury is still out about a lot of this. It's easy on a board like this for theories to become fact the next time it is repeated. So be cautious, but recognize that a good amount of research is still going on to determine the causes and dietary conditions surrounding these deaths. <P>One thing we are doing here on the board is collecting information about every glider death we hear about. So if you post about a glider death, be assured you'll get an email from me -- not so I can be morbid, but to tabulate data which might be able to help vets and researchers learn more.<P>What I found fascinating is that as Ellen and Bruce were grieving their losses and beginning to research this, the lizard community was having the same kinds of losses and independently found cricket bedding to be the most likely cause. <P>So the moral is: If you have healthy gliders and you know where their insects come from and trust that, then go ahead and keep feeding as you have been. Don't be alarmist, but be careful and watchful. <P>------------------<BR>Lucy<p>[This message has been edited by lletton (edited 10-04-2001).]


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