How DON impacts pig gut functionality

Infecting numerous grains, deoxynivalenol (better known as DON) is a mycotoxin to which pigs are especially sensitive. DON can be found on wheat, corn, barley, rice and oat products, giving pigs potential access to the toxin through their feed. The consequences of ingestion of DON by pigs include nausea and vomiting, feed refusal, gastroenteritis, diarrhea, immune-suppression and blood disorders.

DON is also known as a vomitoxin due to its strong emetic effects post-consumption. New research shows exactly why, and how, DON impacts swine.

Once DON-contaminated feed is ingested by swine, their intestinal epithelial cells are targeted by DON. In pigs, the epithelial cells are found in the microbial biomass in the stomach, located just before the small intestine. The toxins are absorbed into the system.

The pig’s gut is an important barrier to toxins; DON can enter regardless of the intestines’ backups. Barriers include tight junctions that essentially seal the intercellular space. DON can not only cross through these junctions, but also increase the permeability of the intestine while doing so. Thus, pigs that may be chronically exposed to DON-contaminated products have a higher DON uptake.

But this isn’t the end of the path of DON. Any absorbed mycotoxins can re-enter the intestine through the same initial path (the intestinal epithelium) or through enterohepatic circulation, a fancy way of saying vomiting. If a pig were to re-ingest the bile, the DON would again be re-absorbed. Either of these scenarios increases the exposure along the gastrointestinal tract.

DON is not toxic just to pigs. Other animals — including cattle, chickens, rodents, dogs and cats — are also sensitive to the toxin. Like pigs, they can also be exposed through grains or grain-by products.

Humans also have a chance of exposure, primarily through cereal grains, or through indirect exposure from foods of animal origin. Humans share many of the side effects of DON, including abdominal pain, headache, dizziness and fever.

For information on Neogen products that detect various mycotoxins, including DON, click here.

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