Topic 5 Fusarium fungi

Fusarium fungi are commonly found in soil in decomposing materials. They produce a wide range of toxins, including

  • trichothecenes (such as deoxynivalenol – DON, nivalenol – NIV and T-2 and HT-2 toxins),
  • zearalenone (ZEN) and
  • fumonisins.


Legend: Stachybotrys sp. fruiting structure with spores, computer illustration. This fungus may produce a trichothecene mycotoxin (Satratoxin H) which is a poisonous by inhalation. The toxins are present on the fungal spores. The toxins produced by this fungus will suppress the immune system affecting the lymphoid tissue and the bone marrow. The spores will die readily after release but the dead spores are still allergenic and toxigenic.

Fusarium moulds and toxins particularly contaminate cereals occur on a variety of different cereal crops, with Fusarium toxins being related with specific types of cereal.

For example:

Wheat is often associated with both DON and ZEN

Oat is often associated with T-2 and HT-2 toxins

Maize (corn) is often associated with fumonisins

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Fungus causes a disease of wheat and barley known as Fusarium head blight
Disease of maize known as Gibberella ear rot 

Trichothecenes are a family of over 200 chemically related fungal toxins produced by several fungi, in particular, Fusarium species, and has been found in commodities such as corn and wheat as well as some processed food products.

Zearalenone (also known as F-2 toxin) is produced by several Fusarium species. It occurs naturally in corn (maize) in late autumn and winter, favored by high humidity and oxygen, and low temperatures conditions.

Zearalenone is heat stable but can be partially destroyed during extrusion cooking of cereals. When high doses of this mycotoxin are administered, it can be carried into the milk of sheep, cows, and pigs.

Fumonisin-producing Fusarium fungi cause a disease in corn known as Fusarium ear rot.

Fumonisins are mycotoxin produced by the fungus Fusarium species that were found to have the highest occurrence and mean concentrations in corn and corn-based products.