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Dietary aflatoxin exposure and impaired growth in young children from Benin and Togo: cross sectional study

BMJ 2002; 325 doi: (Published 06 July 2002) Cite this as: BMJ 2002;325:20

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  1. Y Y Gong, research fellow (,
  2. K Cardwell, research plant pathologistb,
  3. A Hounsa, public health doctorb,
  4. S Egal, junior professional officerb,
  5. P C Turner, research fellowa,
  6. A J Hall, professorc,
  7. C P Wild, professora
  1. aMolecular Epidemiology Unit, Epidemiology and Health Services Research, School of Medicine, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT
  2. bInternational Institute of Tropical Agriculture, Cotonou, Benin, West Africa
  3. cLondon School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London WC1E 7HT
  1. Correspondence to: C P Wild
  • Accepted 20 February 2002

Fetal and early childhood environment, including the nutritional status of the pregnant mother and the infant, are considered critical for growth and risk of disease in later life.1 Many people in developing countries are not only malnourished but also chronically exposed to high levels of toxic fungal metabolites (mycotoxins). One family of mycotoxins, the aflatoxins, are carcinogenic and immunotoxic and cause growth retardation in animals.2 Aflatoxins contaminate staple foods in West Africa, particularly maize and groundnuts, as a result of hot, humid storage conditions that promote fungal growth. High exposure to aflatoxins occurs throughout childhood in the region, 3 4 suggesting that growth and development could be critically affected. We assessed exposure to aflatoxins in relation to anthropometric measures in children in Benin and Togo.

Methods and results

We studied 480 children (aged 9 months to 5 years) from 16 villages in four geographic zones (four in each zone): Sudan savannah, north Guinea savannah, south Guinea savannah, and coastal savannah. The Ministries for Health in Benin and Togo gave ethical …

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