Toxin Degradation by Rumen Microorganisms: A Review

Toxins (Basel). 2020 Oct 20;12(10):664. doi: 10.3390/toxins12100664.


Animal feeds may contain exogenous compounds that can induce toxicity when ruminants ingest them. These toxins are secondary metabolites originating from various sources including plants, bacteria, algae and fungi. Animal feed toxins are responsible for various animal poisonings which negatively impact the livestock industry. Poisoning is more frequently reported in newly exposed, naïve ruminants while 'experienced' ruminants are observed to better tolerate toxin-contaminated feed. Ruminants can possess detoxification ability through rumen microorganisms with the rumen microbiome able to adapt to utilise toxic secondary metabolites. The ability of rumen microorganisms to metabolise these toxins has been used as a basis for the development of preventative probiotics to confer resistance against the poisoning to naïve ruminants. In this review, detoxification of various toxins, which include plant toxins, cyanobacteria toxins and plant-associated fungal mycotoxins, by rumen microorganisms is discussed. The review will include clinical studies of the animal poisoning caused by these toxins, the toxin mechanism of action, toxin degradation by rumen microorganisms, reported and hypothesised detoxification mechanisms and identified toxin metabolites with their toxicity compared to their parent toxin. This review highlights the commercial potential of rumen inoculum derived probiotics as viable means of improving ruminant health and production.

Keywords: degradation; metabolism; plant toxins; probiotic; rumen microorganisms.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animal Feed / microbiology*
  • Animals
  • Bacteria / metabolism*
  • Bacterial Toxins / metabolism*
  • Bacterial Toxins / toxicity
  • Food Microbiology
  • Inactivation, Metabolic
  • Mycotoxins / metabolism*
  • Mycotoxins / toxicity
  • Plant Poisoning / metabolism
  • Plant Poisoning / prevention & control
  • Plant Poisoning / veterinary*
  • Plants, Toxic / metabolism*
  • Plants, Toxic / toxicity
  • Probiotics / pharmacology
  • Rumen / metabolism
  • Rumen / microbiology*
  • Ruminants / metabolism
  • Ruminants / microbiology*


  • Bacterial Toxins
  • Mycotoxins