Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science



First Advisor

Gerald C. Llewellyn


The metabolic secretions from Aspergillus flavus, aflatoxins. are often found as contaminants of agricultural products used for human and animal consumption. Aflatoxin B1 is the most toxic and carcinogenic of the aflatoxins. A reduction in weight gain has been observed when juvenile animals are fed aflatoxin B1 over an extended period of time. This reduction in weight gain may possibly result from an anemic condition induced by an alteration of iron absorption and/or distribution. The effect of chronic sublethal levels of this hepatocarcinogen on weight gain and the uptake and distribution of 59Fe++ were studied in this investigation.

An experimental group consisting of 12 male gerbils was fed an agar-based diet containing 10 ppm aflatoxin B1 and a control group consisting of 6 male gerbils was fed an identical diet which did not contain aflatoxin B1 for a 75-day period. The total mean aflatoxin B1 consumption of the experimental group amounted to 0.170 mg aflatoxin B1/kg of body weight. At the termination of the investigation the mean percent iron absorption of the control and experimental groups was determined. Values of 6.25 and 6.89, respectively, were calculated. The difference between these means was not determined to be significant.

At the termination of the investigation the mean weight gain of the control group animals was 36.9 g as compared to 29.8 g for the aflatoxin group. The difference indicated that a significant reduction in weight gain was observed in the experimental group. lt was apparent that neither the physical activity nor diet consumption measured in the investigation affected the weight gain. Pathological analysis indicated that one-third of the experimental animals had liver injury and two of these had toxic hepatitis.

The difference in the iron absorption between the aflatoxin group and the control group was not found to be significant but certain trends were observed. Animal number 13. the animal with the highest percent absorption, also had toxic hepatitis. However, contradictory evidence was also present with animal number 16 having toxic hepatitis and a very low percent iron absorption.


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