High prevalence of male infertility in Africa: Are mycotoxins to blame?


Ukpai Agwu Eze and Friday E. Okonofua

There is an increase in reports indicating a continuous decline in human fertility in both developed and developing countries. The infertility prevalence varies between developing and developed countries. For instance, in the United States of America it is estimated to be 6% whereas it is 10-15% in United Kingdom. In Africa, infertility prevalence rates are higher and range from 20-35%. The “infertility belt”, geographical regions with high infertility prevalence, is well-known to Africa, stretching from West Africa, through Central to East Africa.

Mycotoxin contamination of food is a global health problem as it is estimated that more than 25% of world agricultural produce are contaminated by mycotoxins.

Studies show that mycotoxins are common contaminants of staple foods in Nigeria, including garri, beans, yam flour, cassava flour, melon, rice, plantain, red pepper, onion, maize, groundnuts, guinea corn, sorghum, and millets.

The well-known adverse health effects of mycotoxins in humans include liver cancer, Balkan Endemic Nephropathy, child growth impairment, modification of immune function, esophageal cancer, neural tube defects and death in acute exposure. In particular, there is growing evidence suggesting that mycotoxins may negatively influence human fertility.

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