Research Article

Aflatoxins and kwashiorkor: a study in Sudanese children.

Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1982; 285 doi: (Published 25 September 1982) Cite this as: Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1982;285:843
  1. R G Hendrickse,
  2. J B Coulter,
  3. S M Lamplugh,
  4. S B Macfarlane,
  5. T E Williams,
  6. M I Omer,
  7. G I Suliman


    Blood and urine samples from 252 Sudanese children were investigated for their aflatoxin content by high-performance liquid chromatography. The children comprised 44 with kwashiorkor, 32 with marasmic kwashiorkor, 70 with marasmus, and 106 age-matched, normally nourished controls. Aflatoxins were detected more often and at higher concentrations in sera from children with kwashiorkor than in the other malnourished and control groups. Aflatoxicol, a metabolite of aflatoxins B1 and B2, was detected in the sera of children with kwashiorkor and marasmic kwashiorkor but not in the controls and only once in a marasmic child. The difference between children with kwashiorkor or marasmic kwashiorkor and those in the control or marasmus groups was significant. Urinary aflatoxin was most often detected in children with kwashiorkor but their mean concentration was lower than in the other groups. Aflatoxicol was not detected in urine in any group. These findings suggest either that the children with kwashiorkor have a greater exposure to aflatoxins or that their ability to transport and excrete aflatoxins is impaired by the metabolic derangements associated with kwashiorkor. The presence of aflatoxicol in the sera of children with kwashiorkor but not in the others suggests a difference in metabolism between the two groups. Further studies are needed, and measurement of aflatoxins in the food eaten by these children is already underway.