Mycotoxins are the most respected of fungal products for their potential to cause serious illness through their direct biochemical action on key body functions (Johanning et al., 1996) (Croft et al., 1986) (Leino et al., 2003). The immune system is not involved. One of these, aflatoxin, is known to be among the most potent of carcinogens. Another group, trichothecenes, are toxins released by the fungus Stachybotris atra (also known as Chartarum) as well as others. There is controversy regarding the role of trichothecene mycotoxins in pulmonary hemosideroisis (Dearborn et al., 1999). Other toxins can affect various hormonal, neurological and other body functions to produce serious health effects (Sorensen, 1999). They are so effective in certain biological activities that they have been harnessed by the pharmaceutical and food industries for commercial use such as antibiotics, immune suppressants to control graft rejection, medicine for cholesterol control, and enzymes used in food processing and preservation.
Mycotoxins are produced by fungi under specific growth conditions and their role in human illness is not well understood. Exposure to certain mycotoxins producing organisms such as Stachybotrys seem to cause neurological damage seen as short-term memory loss, cognitive dysfunction, inability to concentrate and “fuzzy thinking”. There are common complaints of patients with fungal illness. The changes seem to be reversible, at least in part, but they can take years to resolve. Hyperactive immune systems responding to the influx of fungal antigens following chronic exposures are much more likely to be a cause of symptoms in most individuals.