Thursday, 30 August 2012

New species of Mold found growing on Brazil Nuts in the Amazon Basin.

Molds of the genus Aspergilus are considered major economic pests due to their production of aflatoxins, highly carcininogenic compounds that can cause liver cancers in humans and animals. Several hundred species have been described since the genus was first described in 1725, and there are probably far more undescribed species, since these Molds typically only come to the attention of scientists when they infect commercial crops.

In a paper published in the journal PLoS One on 27 August 2012, A team of scientists led by Marta Taniwaki of the Centro de Ciencia e Qualidade de Alimentos at the Instituto de Tecnologia de Alimentos in Sao Paulo, Brazil announce the discovery of a new species of Aspergilus Mold found growing on Briazil Nuts in the Amazon Basin.

The new species is named Aspergillus bertholletius, as it was found growing exclusively on Brazil Nut trees (Bertholletia excelsa), and in soil close to the trees. It was described as a new species based upon gene sequancing and the shape of colonies growing in petri-dishes.

(a) Colonies of Aspergillus bertholletius growing in a petri-dish. (b, c, d) The fruiting bodies of Aspergillus bertholletius. Scale bar is 10 µm. (d) Spores of Aspergillus bertholletius. Scale bar is 5 µm. Taniwaki et al. (2012).

Aspergillus infections can have serious implications for commercial crops, due to the dangers of aflatoxins. Brazil Nuts are a major crop for the Amazon region, so Aspergillus bertholletus potentially has serious implications for the region. During the study 290 samples of Brazil Nuts and 28 soil samples were inspected. 15 of these Nut samples and one soil sample were found to be infected. However at one market in the Amazon region 46% of the Nuts inspected proved to be infected, suggesting that this Mold could have very significant localized implications.

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