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The evaluation of fungal endophyte toxin residues in milk

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AIM: To determine the concentrations of fungal endophyte toxins in the milk of cows fed perennial ryegrass containing wild-type or AR37 endophyte.

METHODS: Groups of 10 multiparous Holstein-Friesian cows were fed wild-type (containing lolitrem B) or AR37 (containing epoxy-janthitrems) endophyte-infected perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenneL.). Animals were kept indoors and fed for 12 days. Over this period, animals were regularly assessed for ryegrass staggers and herbage intake measured. At the conclusion of the 12-day indoor-feeding period, cows were grazed on AR1 (toxin-free) pastures for a further 8 days. Daily individual milk samples and milk yields were collected over the complete 20-day period. Milk samples were analysed for endophyte toxins using HPLC methods developed during this study. Daily herbage samples were also taken and concentrations of endophyte toxins measured.

RESULTS: Methods were successfully developed for the analysis of lolitrem B and epoxy-janthitrems in milk which allowed the concentrations of these compounds in milk to be compared with the concentrations in feed consumed by the animals. Both toxin types could be detected in milk after only 1 day of exposure to respective treatment pastures. The maximum concentration of endophyte toxins in milk was 5 ng/mL lolitrem B and 109 ng/mL epoxy-janthitrems from cows fed wild-type and AR37 endophyte-infected ryegrass pastures, respectively. Concentrations of epoxy-janthitrems present in herbage were much higher than for lolitrem B (Day 1–12 average of 14.6 and 1.8 ppm, respectively). Despite the high concentrations of epoxy-janthitrems consumed by cows fed AR37 endophyte-infected pastures no signs of ryegrass staggers were observed over the experimental period, whereas those cows fed wild-type endophyte-infected pastures all showed signs of ryegrass staggers. This is consistent with the view that epoxy-janthitrems are low potency tremorgens. At the conclusion of the toxin feeding period, endophyte toxin concentrations in milk quickly dropped to almost zero after 8 days. A comparison of the quantities of lolitrem B and epoxy-janthitrems consumed by each cow with the quantities secreted in milk showed that only very low proportions of the total amount ingested are secreted in milk (0.23% lolitrem B and 0.49% epoxy-janthitrems).

CONCLUSION: Lolitrem B and epoxy-janthitrems can be detected in the milk of cows consuming wild-type and AR37 endophyte-infected perennial ryegrass, respectively. Concentrations detected were low and changed quickly in association with the amounts being consumed by the cows. Available evidence gives no indication that these compounds may pose a threat to human health.
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Keywords: AR37; endophyte; epoxy-janthitrems; lolitrem B; milk; toxin extraction methods; toxin residues

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: AgResearch Limited, Ruakura Research Centre, Private Bag 3123Hamilton,3240, New Zealand 2: DairyNZ, Private Bag 3221Hamilton,3240, New Zealand

Publication date: 2013-01-01

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