Aflatoxin levels in maize and peanut and blood in women and children: The case of Timor-Leste

Sci Rep. 2019 Sep 11;9(1):13158. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-49584-1.


Aflatoxins are toxic fungal metabolites produced by Aspergillus sp. with carcinogenic properties that are a common food contaminant of many crops including maize and peanuts. In Timor-Leste malnutrition and children's stunting are frequent and maize and peanuts are staple foods. This study aimed to provide information on aflatoxin exposure nationally. The study measured levels of aflatoxin in locally-produced maize and peanuts (296 samples) and of aflatoxin-albumin conjugate in blood samples of women and young children (514 and 620 respectively) across all municipalities. The average concentration of aflatoxin in the grain samples was low with most maize (88%) and peanut (92%) samples - lower than European Commission tolerated aflatoxin level. Although aflatoxin-albumin conjugate was detected in more than 80% of blood samples, the average concentration in children and adults of 0.64 and 0.98 pg mg-1 alb, respectively, is much lower than in other similar rural-based countries. Although low in concentration, blood aflatoxin levels and aflatoxin contamination levels in maize across municipalities were correlated significantly for mothers (R2 = 37%, n = 495) but not for children (R2 = 10%). It is unlikely that the consumption of aflatoxin contaminated grain is a causative factor in the current level of malnutrition and stunting affecting Timor-Leste children.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aflatoxins / analysis*
  • Aflatoxins / blood
  • Arachis / metabolism*
  • Arachis / microbiology
  • Aspergillus / metabolism*
  • Aspergillus / physiology
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Food Contamination / analysis*
  • Food Contamination / statistics & numerical data
  • Geography
  • Growth Disorders / diagnosis
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Malnutrition / diagnosis
  • Middle Aged
  • Rural Population / statistics & numerical data
  • Timor-Leste
  • Young Adult
  • Zea mays / metabolism*
  • Zea mays / microbiology


  • Aflatoxins