Keywords: infant malnutrition, chronic aflatoxicosis, HIV&, #47, AIDS, Kwashiorkor, mycotoxins, AIDS, growth stunting, morbidity, mortality, Southern Africa, tuberculosis, aflatoxigenic fungi, aflatoxins, rural agricultural sector, food safety, public health
Infant malnutrition and chronic aflatoxicosis in Southern Africa: is there a link?
Malnutrition accounts for more than 5 million deaths of under-5s in the developing world annually. There is mounting evidence implicating aflatoxin contamination as an important factor in infant under-nutrition. Aflatoxins have in the past been associated with the development of primary liver cancer. More recent studies link chronic aflatoxicosis to infant growth stunting and increased morbidity and mortality due to negative impact on immune function and micro-nutrient absorption. Southern Africa is largely subtropical and experiences erratic rainfall, poverty, and high burden of disease (especially HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis). The geography, climate and socioeconomic factors in Southern Africa make the region conducive to the growth of aflatoxigenic fungi. However, studies on the natural occurrence of aflatoxins are outdated. This review discusses the need for new surveillance studies into the presence and ecology of aflatoxins in food commodities originating from, and traded by and within Southern Africa's rural agricultural sector.