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Ochratoxins are a group of mycotoxins produced by some Aspergillus species (mainly A. ochraceus and A. carbonarius, but also by 33% of A. niger industrial strains) and some Penicillium species, especially P. verrucosum. Ochratoxin A is the most prevalent and relevant fungal toxin of this group, while ochratoxins B and C are of lesser importance.

Ochratoxin A is known to occur in commodities such as cereals, coffee, dried fruit, and red wine. It is possibly a human carcinogen and is of special interest as it can be accumulated in the meat of animals. Thus, meat and meat products can be contaminated with this toxin. Exposure to ochratoxins through diet can cause acute toxicity in mammalian kidneys.

It has been suggested that carriers of alleles associated with phenylketonuria may have been protected from spontaneous abortion caused by ochratoxin exposure, providing a heterozygous advantage for the alleles despite the possibility of severe mental retardation in the rarer instance of inheritance from both parents.[1][2]


  1. ^ "#261600 ICD+ PHENYLKETONURIA; PKU". Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man.
  2. ^ Woolf, L. I. "The heterozygote advantage in phenylketonuria." (Letter) Am. J. Hum. Genet. 38: 773-775, 1986.

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