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Studies of food thickeners in Nigeria for contamination by aflatoxigenic forms of <i>Aspergillus</i> and their detection by PCR

GI Okwu
PN Achar
MJ Ikenebomeh
MY Sreenivasa


This paper reports the contamination of ready-to-use food thickeners, collected from the South-East geo-political zone in Nigeria, by aflatoxigenic form of Aspergillus species. A total of 150 samples from different open markets were observed for fungal contamination by using serial dilution-spread plate method. Although, Aspergillus, Fusarium and Penicillium were the most frequently isolated fungi, Aspergillus species were found to be the most prevalent in all the samples. Furthermore, Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus parasiticus produced aflatoxin on yeast extract sucrose (YES) media incubated for 10 to 15 days at 27°C in a CO2 incubator. Aspergillus niger showed no sign of any secondary metabolite on the media, set at similar conditions. Although, light microscopy was used to identify these fungi, based on colony morphology, PCR method was used to confirm genetic variation among the Aspergillus group, using ITS set of primers. Gel electrophoresis of PCR products confirmed the presence of Aspergillus species at an amplification range from 500 to 600 bp in all the samples tested. PCR was found to be a sensitive and a more reliable tool for detection and identification of Aspergillus species in food thickeners as opposed to conventional light microscopy. This is a first kind of mycological survey on the contamination of ready-to-use food thickeners sold in Nigeria.

Key words: Aspergillus flavus, Aspergillus parasiticus, aflatoxin, food thickeners, ITS.