The Ultimate Guide To Gliotoxin (a mycotoxin)


After writing the master blog called The Ultimate Guide To Mycotoxins I thought I would write smaller blogs on each of the main mycotoxins. Let’s look at Gliotoxin.

What Is Gliotoxin?

Gliotoxin is a sulfur-containing mycotoxin. Mycotoxins are naturally occurring toxins produced by certain moulds (fungi).

What Moulds Produce Gliotoxin?

Gliotoxin is both the major and the most potent toxin produced by Aspergillus fumigatus

What Foods Are High In Gliotoxin?

There doesn’t seem to be an easy to find list here, unlike other mycotoxins I have blogged on such as Citrinin, Alfatoxin and Ochratoxin. I’ll keep looking.

It is thought that the main exposure would be via water damaged buildings however, such as a water leak of a damp property with poor ventilation.

Gliotoxin And Human Health

Gliotoxin penetrates and impairs the integrity of the human blood-brain barrier in vitro

The toxin is known to be:

  • Immunosuppressive: inhibits phagocytosis, inhibits the transcription factor NF-κB thereby blocking inflammatory response and cytokine production and blocks mast cell degranulation.
  • Antibacterial
  • Neurotoxic: it can penetrate the blood–brain barrier, and damage the astrocytes.

How Do I Avoid Exposure To Gliotoxin?

The World Health Organisation advise the consumer to:

  • Carefully inspect whole grains and nuts for evidence of mould, and discard any that look mouldy, discoloured, or shriveled.
  • Buy grains and nuts as fresh as possible; that have been grown as close to home as possible, and which have not been transported over a long time
  • Buy only reputable brands of nuts and nut butters – aflatoxin moulds are not entirely killed by processing or roasting, so can show up in products e.g. peanut butter
  • Make sure that foods are stored properly and are not kept for extended periods of time before being used
  • Try to ensure his/her diet is diverse; this not only helps to mitigate aflatoxin exposure, but also improves health and nutrition. Consumers who lack dietary diversity need to pay extra attention to minimize the risk of high exposure to aflatoxins. For example, extensive aflatoxin exposure has been reported from areas where people get a major part of their daily calorie intake from maize; this foodstuff is commonly contaminated with aflatoxins and needs to be handled properly both before and after harvest.

However, this is not considering the mycotoxins that might be produced from water-damaged buildings – really the most common cause of mould illness. In these situations, leaving the property may be needed. There are other considerations that be considered also, as I appreciate this is sometimes just not achievable. Check out my article The Ultimate Guide To Mycotoxins for more information on this.

Great Plains Laboratory state that the three most common exposure routes to Citrinin are through ingestion, inhalation, and skin contact

How Do You Remove Gliotoxin From The Body?

Check out my article The Ultimate Guide To Mycotoxins which discusses interventions to support the detoxification of mycotoxins.

Climate And Mycotoxins

A paper entitled Aflatoxins in the Soil Ecosystem: An Overview of Its Occurrence, Fate, Effects and Future Perspectives states:

“Current regulations provide minimal options for the disposal of aflatoxin-contaminated crops, amongst which is the incorporation of residues into the soil for natural degradation. This form of mycotoxin loading into the soil could potentially change its physicochemical characteristics and biotic parameters. Recent studies suggest that as climate conditions change, the occurrence and geographical distribution of aflatoxins might increase, posing significant health risks to the soil ecosystem, food crop production and human health.”

How Do I Test For Mycotoxins And Gliotoxin In The UK


Gliotoxin is included in the Great Plains Laboratory.

Books On Mycotoxins

Practitioners to follow:




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