Biomarker Evaluation of Mycotoxicosis


Traditionally programs to prevent mycotoxicoses rely on assay of feed.  Both rapid test strip assays and more sophisticated laboratory-based spectroscopy are available and offered by manufacturers of mycotoxin binders. The problem associated with mycotoxin assay relates to the inherently large sampling error due to the focal distribution of mycotoxins within a batch of an ingredient.

Innovad of Belgium has approached to problem of detecting mycotoxicosis by evaluating the response of individual chickens. The theory behind the technology was developed at the University of Ghent and relies on biomarkers in the blood of birds exposed to specific mycotoxins.

After reviewing the publication on which the concept is based, it is apparent that there is still a considerable amount of research required to validate a diagnosis of mycotoxicosis from blood samples.  It is also necessary to establish a field correlation between mycotoxins in feed and the biomarkers in blood.  The data available to Innovad is based on laboratory studies in which known amounts of specific mycotoxins were added to feed.  Although there is a positive correlation between the level in feed and the mycotoxin degradation products in blood, the results from an actual flock receiving feed prepared from an ingredient containing a mycotoxin may not be diagnostic.


The concept of detecting and quantifying a biomarker is logical and when refined may offer confirmation of a non-specific problem especially with low levels of mycotoxins.  Most mycotoxicoses can be confirmed by histological examination if pathognomonic lesions are present.  The problem confronted by poultry health professionals is frequently encountering an assay result indicating a potentially toxic level of a mycotoxin but with a flock performing in accordance with breed standard. This raises the question as to the validity of the feed assay that may be affected by sampling error and also whether it will be cost effective to add a mycotoxin binder to feed. 

It is hoped that the biomarker system will be refined by Innovad or another health-product provider to assist poultry health professionals in their appraisal of mycotoxin assays of feed and ingredients.