3/ Intestine
Flour, Cereals
Roridin E
Ochratoxin A
Aflatoxin B2
Chaetoglobosin A
Roquefortine C
Aflatoxin B1




From food
From water damage
Adapted from: Polizzi V. et al., J. Environ. Monitoring. 2009, 11:1849 (full reference, click here)
Kidney glomerulus
OTA has been a prime suspect for BEN (Balkan Endemic Nephropathy) like for some cases of Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosis, as well as for urinary tract tumors. Recent studies point more towards proximal tubule nephropathies, and a possible implication of the Wnt pathway.
Numbers of samples from houses positive
for the named mycotoxin
C/ Biosynthesis
Ochratoxins are synthesized by Aspergillus (mainly A. ochraceus and A. carbonarius), but also by 33% of A. niger industrial strains *) and Penicillium (mainly P. verrucosum), the former under tropical climates, the latter in cooler climates.

In the gut OTA (like DON, see page) decreases key tight junction protein CLAUDIN-4, hence increased paracellular permeability (McLaughlin et al, Am. J. Physiol. Cell Physiol. 2004, 287:C1412)
2/ Kidney & urinary tract
Image from
* J.C. Frisvad et al.PLoS ONE, Aug 2011 vol 6 : e23496
The developing brain is very susceptible to OTA, hence risk in pregnancy (Doi, 2011, Int. Journ. Mol. Sci, 12: 5213)
OTA causes acute depletion of striatal dopamine, which constitutes the bed of Parkinson's disease (Sava, 2006)
The hippocampus, a primary site of neurodegeneration in Alzheimer's disease, is affected by subchronic administration of OTA ( Belmadani, Human Exp. Toxicol., 1998,17: 380)
4/ Carcinogenicity
There is a high incidence of kidney cancer and cancer of the urinary tract in some BEN afflicted populations. Relationship with testicular cancer is discussed. In rodents there is also some evidence for mammary tumors and hepatic cancer
Breast feeding mothers must exert caution on their dietary intake: ochratoxin in human breast milk is not exceptional (Bhat, 2010)
Ochratoxin has a strong affinity for the Brain, especially Cerebellum (Purkinje cells) and ventral mesencephalon, and also for the hippocampal structures (Belmadani,  Arch. Toxicol. 1999: 73: 108).
"OTA may contribute to the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative diseases (e.g. Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease)", according to teams from Zhejiang Univ. and Kiel Univ.; Zhang et al., Genes Nutr. 2009, 4:41.
5/ Hepatotoxicity
Hepatotoxicity has been shown in animal models (Essid, 2012), possibly reversed by Silibinin

E/ Dietary approach
Source OTA in microg/Kg of food OTA in ng/Kg of food Food intake in Kg Diet 1 Diet 1+
liquorice extract 26.30 26,300 --- --- ---
Ginger 5.50 5,500 0.005 27.50 ---
Nutmeg 2.27 2,265 0.005 11.33 ---
Paprika 1.32 1,315 0.005 6,58 ---
Pig liver 1.10 1,100 --- ---- ---
Ginseng 1.10 1,100 --- ---
Dry raisins 0.95 950.00 0.1 95.00 ---
Pig kidney 0.80 800 0.2 ---- 160.00
Liquorice confectionery 0.17 170.00 --- ---- ----
Coffee 0.13 125.00 0.3 37.50 ----
Cereals 0.09 87.50 0.5 43.75 ----
Peanuts 0.08 79.00 0.2 ---- 15.80
Wine 0.05 50.00 0.5 25.00 ----
Pulses 0.05 49.50 0.5 24.75 -----
Beer 0.05 49.00 ---- ---- ----
Salami 0.05 49.00 0.3 14.70 ----
The "Tolerable daily intake" (TDI) of Ochratoxin is 5 ng/kg. In the US, mean body weight for men is 86 kg, and for women 74 kg. Hence the TDI for men is 430 ng and the TDI for women 370 ng. In the joined table "weight in Kg" is the weight eaten per day of each of the listed foodstuffs. Diet 1, with small quantities of ginger, nutmeg and paprika, a good serving of dry raisins, a reasonable amount of coffee, cereals, wine, pulses, and salami, amounts to a safe diet (as for Ochratoxin at least), with 286 ng per day. However It would be easy to go into excessive levels (Diet 1+), just by eating 200 g of pig kidney, and chewing 200 g of peanuts, which would lead to a total of nearly 462 ng of ochratoxin. This shows how delicate a safe diet can be.

When a patient's symptoms are associated with a possibility or certainty of ochratoxin overload, the first thing to do is to reduce dietary OTA intake.
After injection of a single OTA dose to mice (3 mg/Kg BW, IP) highest     concentrations are found in the cerebellum ( Zhang, 2009)
D/ Pharmacokinetics
In humans, OTA has an extremely long half-life, hence a considerable risk of accumulation and toxicity, that animal toxicology may overlook. This is why dietary precautions are essential.
Half life in hours
OTA half life after oral administration
from Kuiper-Goodman, 2010
Image of Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosis