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Aflatoxin liver disease on the rise

By | December 16th 2011

By Lucciane Limo

Aflatoxin-induced liver disease is on the rise, a new study shows.

The study found that more than 4,000 aflatoxin-induced liver cases have been reported in the country.

The report also notes that globally, up to 155,000 aflatoxin-induced liver cases are being reported annually, mostly in Africa, Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific (China).

The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre, Kenya Agricultural Research Institute, University of Pittsburg, the Uniformed Services University for the Health Sciences, ACDI/VOCA Kenya and the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics jointly undertook the research.

The Kenyan study was undertaken between September 2009 and May 2011, focusing on three regions namely Upper Eastern (Embu/Mbeere), Lower Eastern (Makueni, Machakos) and South Western (Kisii/Rongo/ Homa Bay) covering a range of agro-ecological zones.

The study’s objective was to increase understanding of the effects of aflatoxin on people’s health and livelihoods.

Some 4,500 samples were collected from maize fields, farmers’ stores and from markets, which showed up to 40 per cent of the sampled maize, especially from Eastern and Western Kenya, were aflatoxin contaminated.

The study discounts the misconception that the aflatoxin issue is confined to Eastern Kenya, saying the Rift Valley is particularly susceptible.

The study also shows that the proportion of maize with aflatoxin levels exceeding 10 per cent is higher in farmers’ stores, suggesting that current storage practices are a significant factor in increasing the risk of contamination.

"This confirms farmers’ observation that it is harder for them to ensure crops reach full maturity before harvesting and are subsequently fully dried before storage between January/February when the harvest from the long rains must take place and March, when the short rains begins," notes the study.

The report concludes that awareness on aflatoxin and testing technologies should be increased to reduce the toxic compound’s levels.

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