Impact of Aspergillus section Flavi community structure on the development of lethal levels of aflatoxins in Kenyan maize (Zea mays)

Claudia Probst, Fritz Schulthess, Peter J Cotty

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

109 Citations (Scopus)


Aims: To evaluate the potential role of fungal community structure in predisposing Kenyan maize to severe aflatoxin contamination by contrasting aflatoxin-producing fungi resident in the region with repeated outbreaks of lethal aflatoxicosis to those in regions without a history of aflatoxicosis. Methods and Results: Fungi belonging to Aspergillus section Flavi were isolated from maize samples from three Kenyan provinces between 2004 and 2006. Frequencies of identified strains and aflatoxin-producing abilities were assessed, and the data were analysed by statistical means. Most aflatoxin-producing fungi belonged to Aspergillus flavus. The two major morphotypes of A. flavus varied greatly between provinces, with the S strain dominant in both soil and maize within aflatoxicosis outbreak regions and the L strain dominant in nonoutbreak regions. Conclusions: Aspergillus community structure is an important factor in the development of aflatoxins in maize in Kenya and, as such, is a major contributor to the development of aflatoxicosis in the Eastern Province. Significance and Impact of the Study: Since 1982, deaths caused by aflatoxin-contaminated maize have repeatedly occurred in the Eastern Province of Kenya. The current study characterized an unusual fungal community structure associated with the lethal contamination events. The results will be helpful in developing aflatoxin management practices to prevent future outbreaks in Kenya.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)600-610
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Applied Microbiology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2010


  • Aflatoxicosis
  • Aspergillus flavus
  • Corn
  • Fungal community structure
  • Kenya
  • Food Contamination
  • Soil Microbiology
  • Zea mays/chemistry
  • Soil/analysis
  • Kenya/epidemiology
  • Aflatoxins/analysis
  • Disease Outbreaks
  • Aspergillus flavus/chemistry


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