Comparison of urinary sphingolipids in human populations with high and low maize consumption as a possible biomarker of fumonisin dietary exposure

Food Addit Contam. 2004 Nov;21(11):1090-5. doi: 10.1080/02652030400013318.


The increased sphinganine/sphingosine (SA/SO) ratio has previously been shown as a biomarker of fumonisin exposure in experimental animals and has been proposed as a tool to assess human exposure to fumonisin mainly occurring through the dietary consumption of fumonisin contaminated maize-based foods. Sphinganine and sphingosine were measured in urines of humans resident in two areas of North Argentina and South Brazil with high maize consumption and compared with urine samples collected in areas with very low or no maize consumption, such as Central Argentina and Southern Italy. The pattern of SA/SO values in the two groups with no maize consumption (assumed as controls) was similar, with all SA/SO values lower than one. Mean SA/SO ratio was 1.27 in urine of subjects with high maize consumption (n = 123) and 0.36 in controls (n = 66) and the difference was statistically significant (p<0.001). The mean fumonisin level in maize samples collected in North Argentina and South Brazil was 0.35 mg kg(-1) (n = 40). Although a similar maize and fumonisin intake was recorded for the two groups of populations, the mean SA/SO ratio in South Brazil (1.57) was significantly higher (p<0.05) than that of North Argentina (0.69). These data suggest that the higher SA/SO values observed in South Brazil cannot be associated with high fumonisin exposure and further studies are necessary to provide convincing evidence for using the SA/SO ratio as a biomarker of human fumonisin exposure.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Argentina
  • Biomarkers / urine
  • Brazil
  • Child
  • Environmental Monitoring / methods
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Female
  • Food Contamination / analysis*
  • Fumonisins / administration & dosage*
  • Fumonisins / analysis
  • Humans
  • Italy
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Sphingolipids / urine*
  • Zea mays / chemistry*


  • Biomarkers
  • Fumonisins
  • Sphingolipids