The African Fusarium/maize disease
There is a general but rather vague feeling that the use of maize (corn) as a staple foodstuff by black rural Africans is somehow a factor in, or is linked to, chronic disease found in these populations. An attempt is made in this review to consider the evidence for this connection and to identify what is actually the root of the problem. The main thrust of the argument to explain this perception is that maize is routinely contaminated with fungi and of these Fusarium verticillioides is found in maize throughout the world. Evidence is presented to this effect and, further, of the mycotoxins found in maize, the fumonisins are the most common and at the highest levels. Various animal chronic diseases arising from the consumption of contaminated maize are reviewed and possible human conditions listed, in some cases related to the known animal ones. A brief overview of the complicated cellular mechanisms of fumonisin B1 is given and it is concluded that the prime suspect in what might be called "the maize disease" can be attributed to the ingestion of this mycotoxin, sometimes in combination with other synergist mycotoxins and other disease factors, such as smoking and drinking.