Aflatoxin exposure and DNA damage in the comet assay in individuals from the Gambia, West Africa

Teratog Carcinog Mutagen. 1999;19(2):147-55.


The single cell gel electrophoresis assay (Comet assay) was used to measure DNA damage in peripheral lymphocytes from a group of individuals from The Gambia in order to determine whether such damage could be associated with increased exposure to aflatoxin in this population. Responses obtained were correlated to responses previously obtained [1] in a cross-sectional study in the same individuals of various cytogenetic alterations [chromosomal aberrations, micronuclei (crest positive and negative staining), and sister chromatid exchanges], and aflatoxin-albumin adducts. Analysis of variance methods were used to assess the effects of smoking, GSTM1 genotype, sex, age, and smoking status. A comparison was also made between The Gambian individuals and a group of healthy, non-smoking volunteers in the United Kingdom where aflatoxin exposure would be expected to be low. From the earlier study [1], it was determined that the levels of the sister chromatid exchanges and micronuclei were higher in The Gambian group than in a European group where aflatoxin exposure was lower, but that there were no correlations between the adduct levels and the cytogenetic abnormalities at the individual level. In the present study, DNA damage as measured in the Comet assay was not significantly higher than in the healthy United Kingdom volunteers. In addition, there were no associations between cytogenetic damage, GSTM1 genotype, age, sex, lifestyle factors (smoking and aflatoxin exposure), and Comet response at the individual level. Comet response was higher in females than males in The Gambia if one outlier was excluded from analysis and not taking into account other sources of variability. It would appear that DNA damage as measured in the Comet assay in peripheral blood lymphocytes is not a sensitive genotoxic marker of aflatoxin exposure in this population.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aflatoxins / adverse effects*
  • Aflatoxins / pharmacology*
  • Aged
  • DNA Damage*
  • Female
  • Gambia
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mutagenicity Tests*
  • Mutagens / adverse effects*
  • Mutagens / pharmacology*
  • Smoking


  • Aflatoxins
  • Mutagens