Mycotoxins can be classified based on their chemical structure, which determines their toxicological effects. There are four main groups of mycotoxins:
1. Aflatoxins: Aflatoxins are produced by Aspergillus species of fungi and are commonly found in nuts, cereals, and spices. Aflatoxins are potent carcinogens and can cause liver damage in humans and animals.
2. Ochratoxins: Ochratoxins are produced by Aspergillus and Penicillium species of fungi and are commonly found in cereals, coffee, and wine. Ochratoxins can cause kidney damage and are classified as possible human carcinogens.
3. Trichothecenes: Trichothecenes are produced by various species of fungi, including Fusarium and Stachybotrys. They are commonly found in cereal grains, and their toxicity varies based on the specific type of trichothecene. They can cause gastrointestinal, hematological, and immunological effects in humans and animals.
4. Zearalenone: Zearalenone is produced by Fusarium species of fungi and is commonly found in cereal grains. It is an estrogenic mycotoxin and can cause reproductive issues in humans and animals.
Other mycotoxins of concern include patulin (produced by Penicillium and Aspergillus fungi), fumonisins (produced by Fusarium fungi), and ergot alkaloids (produced by Claviceps species of fungi).