Mycotoxins in general: Mycotoxins are the toxic chemicals produced by fungi for a variety of reasons. These include to attack or gain access to hosts by helping to dissolve cell membranes, or as protective measures against encroaching organisms. The production of mycotoxins within the fungus depends on food sources and the particular enzymes of the fungus and other environmental factors. Mycotoxins are usually not found in spores, but are generally produced in the next stage, that of mycelium. Many mycotoxins, such as Mycotoxin T2 (Fusariotoxin) or the Amanita-toxins can be lethal to animals. Others, such as Psilocybin, are entheogenic, producing altered states of consciousness that are usually associated with shamanism/religion. Others, such as the ergot derivatives are used for migraine and post-partum hemorrhage. Still others, such as penicillin, Fusaric acid, and Wortmannin have antibiotic effects, and Zearalenone with anabolic effects, but which may or may not be beneficial to the host organism depending on the mode of administration and dose.

Filamentous fungi, especially those of the Fusarium, Myrotecium, Trichoderma, and Stachybotrys genera, produce trichothecene mycotoxins. These mycotoxins are extremely heat stable and resist ultraviolet light inactivation. If the mycotoxins are ingested, they produce a lethal illness called alimentary toxic aleukia (ATA) with the following initial symptoms: abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting, and prostration. These progress into fever, chills, myalgias, and bone marrow depression causing granulocytopenia and sepsis. If the patient survives these initial stages, the next set of symptoms are painful pharyngeal/laryngeal ulceration and diffuse bleeding into the skin, bloody diarrhea, hematuria, hematemesis, epistaxis, and vaginal bleeding.

Mycotoxins can enter the body through the skin, stomach, or lungs and inhibit protein and nucleic acid synthesis. The first cells attacked are the rapidly dividing cells such as bone marrow, skin, mucosal epithelia, and germ cells. When skin is exposed to mycotoxins, burning, redness, blistering, and skin necrosis occur. When nasal mucosa is exposed to mycotoxins, this produces nasal pain, sneezing, rhinorrhea, dyspnea, wheezing, cough, and blood tinged saliva and sputum. Exposure of the eyes to mycotoxins produces eye pain, tearing, redness, and blurred vision. Once the mycotoxins enter the system, symptoms include weakness, prostration, dizziness, ataxia, loss of coordination, and in fatal cases, tachycardia, hypothermia, and hypotension. Death may occur in minutes, hours, or days.

Diagnosis. Laboratory tests are not available to diagnosis exposure to T-2 toxins. Toxic exposure can only be confirmed when tissue samples taken at autopsy are tested using a mass spectrometer.

Treatment. Again, exposure can be prevented with a gas mask and protective chemical gear. All treatment is supportive because no antitoxins or antifungals are presently available.

[8,16,17] (8.) US Army Medical Research Institute of Infection Diseases; Medical Management of Biological Casualties; September 1999.
(16.) Zajtchuk, R.; Textbook of Military Medicine: Medical Aspects of Chemical and Biological Warfare. Published by the Office of the Surgeon General, Department of the Army; 1997.
(17.) Murray PR, Baron EJ, Pfsllor MA, et al, eds.; Manual of Clinical Microbiology, 6th ed. Washington, DC.; ASM Press; 1995.

The Mold Mystery
By Susan Dioury, Director of Government & Regulatory Issues

There are four types of fungal agents; infectious, irritants, allergens and mycotoxins.

Infectious: Indoor fungi do not usually cause infection. Although, systemic infections can be caused by bird droppings near air intakes which can be a source of Histoplasma capsulatum and Cryptoccoccus neoformans if disturbed. Local infections such as ringworm and thrush are also fungi infections.ii

Irritants: Fungi can cause skin irritation and irritation of the eyes and nose.

Allergens: To an allergist, Fungi are at the bottom of the list for allergic sensitization. House dust mites, cats, dogs and birds, cockroaches and rodents would all be considered before fungi.iii Generally an allergic reaction to fungi occurs in people who are genetically predisposed to it. There has been no proven case of allergy to Stachybotrys. Sensitization to the mold Alternaria, which is an outdoor fungi, is a risk for asthma.

Mycotoxins: All fungi produce one or more mycotoxins, so the term "toxic mold" makes no scientific sense. Potent cytotoxins cause cell disruption and interfere with cellular processes. Some are carcinogenic, induce tremors or other central nervous system effects, or damage the immune system or specific organs (e.g. heart, liver, kidney, lungs, etc.). There are many unanswered questions pertaining to mycotoxin exposure and human disease. We know that some fungi do produce mycotoxins on some indoor materials and Stachybotrys toxins have been measured in substrate materials but not in the air. Even if a toxigenic fungus is present, it does not necessarily mean that the mold is producing toxins. Identification of mold on a wall or in an air duct, even a type of mold that has the ability to create mycotoxins, does not provide evidence of exposure. There are still questions as to whether or not toxin-containing particles are entering the breathing zone and are being inhaled, and what dose would have toxic affects on humans.

(The scientific, medical and legal information contained in "The Mold Mystery" were taken directly from speakers who presented at two separate conferences: Mold: The Litigation Blossoms by MN Defense Lawyers Association Mold Medicine & Mold Science: Its Practical Applications for Patient Care, Remediation & Claims by the International Center for Toxicology and Medicine and the Department of Pharmacology at Georgetown University. I have noted the speakers who presented the information in the endnotes to this document.)

i Paul R. Lees-Haley, Ph.D., A.B.P.P.,
Neuropsychology Consultant, Health Education Services

ii Elena H. Page, M.D., M.P.H., F.A.C.O.E.M.,
Supervisory Medical Officer, CDC, NIOSH

iii Emil J. Bardana, Jr., M.D.,
Professor of Medicine, Division of Allergy & Clinical Immunology
Oregon Health & Science University

iv Harriet A. Burge, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Environmental Microbiology, Harvard School of Public Health