Scientists in Japan have made significant progress in understanding how to reduce the toxicity of patulin, a harmful mycotoxin found in fruits. Patulin is produced by fungi commonly found in damaged fruits such as apples, pears, and grapes. This substance poses serious risks to human, animal, and plant health, including DNA damage, immune suppression, and an increased risk of cancer.

The research team conducted a study to identify microorganisms capable of mitigating the toxicity of patulin. They analyzed 510 soil samples in search of microorganisms that could survive in the presence of this substance. They then used high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) to determine which microorganisms were most effective in decomposing patulin into less harmful substances. They identified a strain of filamentous fungi called Acremonium sp. or “TUS-MM1” that showed promising results.

Subsequent experiments revealed that the TUS-MM1 strain transformed absorbed patulin into deoxypatulinic acid, a compound less toxic than patulin itself. The researchers also discovered that the cell secretions of TUS-MM1 were capable of transforming patulin into other significantly less toxic molecules. Chemical analysis demonstrated that a thermally stable and highly reactive compound was the primary agent responsible for transforming patulin outside of cells.

This discovery provides crucial insights into the degradation mechanisms of patulin in nature and may pave the way for new ways to control its toxicity in food. It could lead to the development of biocontrol methods to reduce patulin levels in fruits and fruit-based products. By understanding how microorganisms can degrade patulin, scientists can potentially enhance food safety and protect consumers from the harmful effects of this mycotoxin.

It is worth noting that food contamination with patulin is a global problem, and many countries have imposed restrictions on its levels, especially in baby food. While treatment options for patulin toxicity exist, prevention through effective control measures is preferred. Further research is needed to fully understand the potential of microorganisms like the TUS-MM1 strain in reducing patulin toxicity and ensuring the safety of our food supply.

– Tokyo University of Science (TUS)