Toxin binders

There are two toxin binders that I can recommend, with slightly different features. The term “mycotoxin” is derived from “mykes,” meaning fungi, and “toxicon,” meaning poison. Mycotoxins are naturally occurring toxic metabolites produced by fungi/mould and can be found in some grasses, hay, poorly stored bagged feeds and silage/haylage. Commonly recognised mycotoxins include the polar toxins that have a postive or negative charge such as aflatoxins and fumonisins. The non polar toxins don’t have a positive or negative charge and include trichothecenes (DON, T2 toxins, fusaric acid, ochratoxin), lolitrem B, zearalenone and ergot alkaloids like ergovaline. The pasture mycotoxins that are the most likely are ergovaline and lolitrem B though there are many others including Aspergillus, Fusarium and Penicillium. Many different mycotoxins can be present at the same time if the environmental conditions are optimal for growth.

If you are concerned about your hay being mouldy or are experiencing a fungal outbreak in your pasture, for example, Paspalum ergot fungus or certain strains of endophyte perennial ryegrass and tall fescue, consider a toxin binder. The fungal growth on these plants and others are renowned for causing photosynthesisation. Signs are sunburn and blistering on pink skin on faces and pasterns (generic term, greasy heel or mud fever). When an animal consumes a plant or chemical containing these pigments (eg. polyphenolic), the pigments circulate to the skin where they are exposed to UV light, fluoresce and cause oxidative injury to the cells of the skin. Liver damage in a horse might not be noticed until the animal develops photosensitisation.There are a number of other ‘general’ negative signs but they could be caused by other factors, so it’s very difficult to be sure. Signs include suppressed immune system, depression, diarrhoea, abundance of unwanted energy, tremors, low appetite, poor coat, loss of coordination and worse, staggering.

Greasy heel
Possible Mycotoxin photosensitivity
Paspalum
Paspalum

An ideal toxin binder would be able to be fed in a small amount but still be effective in binding or deactivating both small and large concentrations of different toxins, both polar and non polar. It should be stable and effective over a wide pH range as the digestive system pH varies significantly. Some parts such as the stomach are highly acidic but other parts of the gut are alkaline. And importantly for horse owners, it needs to be as palatable as possible. No one toxin binder product can capture all mycotoxins but the ideal product will bind most of what you are dealing with.

A toxin binder like Mycosorb A+ and/or Elitox can be a solution.

Mycosorb A+ by Alltech is a patented Saccharomyces cerevisiae strain, a single-celled eukaryote (yeast/fungi – brewers yeast) that is frequently used in scientific research and has many applications. To learn more about S. cerevisiae products, go to Probiotics, prebiotics and postbiotics.

To prepare Mycosorb A+ a specific strain of yeast is grown under prescribed conditions, inactivated and fractionated to separate the cell wall glucomannan from the rest of the yeast cell. The glucomannan is then processed to enhance its ability to bind with mycotoxins. Mycosorb A+ is indigestible, so toxins that bind with it are removed from the body with the manure.

Mycosorb A+ reduces the risk of mycotoxins by the process of adsorption. Adsorption is the process by which carbohydrate components of yeast and algae cell walls bind to mycotoxins, removing them from the horse’s digestive tract.

How well Mycosorb A+ works will depend on how easy the mycotoxin can be picked up and removed. Polar toxins like aflatoxins and fumonisins are easier to pick up.

Mycosorb A+
Mycosorb A+

At this stage, there is very little research in the efficacy of toxin binders with the non polar type common toxins in grasses. It may be that the type of toxin binder that Elitox is, will work better with these toxins.

Elitox by Impextraco works by not just binding and deactivating a wide range of mycotoxins but also contains detoxifying enzymes that are naturally found in some plants and bacteria. A key ingredient chitosan is known for its antibacterial and antifungal properties. 

Dr Stuart Wilkinson of Feedworks (Elitox), “…in cooler climates such as southern Australia, the challenge is typically Fusarium fungi which produce non-polar toxins (can’t be bound by mycotoxin binders). In warmer conditions and tropical regions, Aspergillus fungi that produce aflatoxins (polar toxins which can be bound) are more common. Temperate regions can experience a broader range of mycotoxin challenge and therefore require a broad acting mycotoxin elimination product..” 

Elitox is a clay based product however the company has done in vitro studies that showed no significant reduction in the availability of nutrients in feed. If you are having mycotoxin issues that do not respond to Mycosorb A+, I recommend Elitox as it is more likely to be effective with non polar mycotoxins. 

Elitox
Elitox

There are other clay type toxin binders available are based on bentonite or zeolite but the major disadvantage is that they are known to bind minerals like copper and zinc. Another disadvantage is these clay based products are very high in iron (dirt in a bucket). Montmorillonite is the primary clay type in bentonite. An example of a study looking at this was done by Tomasevic-Canovic et al, link below. This is why vets may recommend short term use (particularly activated charcoal) if your horse has acute infectious diarrhoea, it may prevent intestinal absorption of toxic minerals. Best to consult your vet. 

Zeolite can absorb aflatoxin but *not* other toxins. It can absorb molecular minerals with a positive charge but they must be in dissolved form and it will bind the nutritionally important minerals as well as toxins.

I’m often asked whether a toxin binder should be fed all year round. My answer is no unless you have a mycotoxin problem all year round.

If mycotoxins are temporary due to a very humid season for instance, feed a toxin binder only when you have a fungal problem to solve. There are some parts of Australia where high humidity is all year round, and this may be where a toxin binder does need to be fed all year round.

Further reading:

Some examples of research.
Links may change over time. If a link doesn’t work, search the title in your search engine.

Henry et al (2007) Effect of perennial ryegrass endophyte and a feed additive on some physiological parameters and intake of young ewes in winter
https://www.grassland.org.nz/publications/nzgrassland_publication_2342.pdf

Kihal A, Rodríguez-Prado M, Calsamiglia S (2022) The efficacy of mycotoxin binders to control mycotoxins in feeds and the potential risk of interactions with nutrient: a review
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/36208465/

Leury et al (2014) Developing increased understanding, awareness and potential mitigation strategies for perennial ryegrass toxicosis in sheep production systems
https://www.mla.com.au/contentassets/7b639783e2ec4ab594efe1e9294b7265/b.ahe.0039_final_report.pdf

Nipane et al (2012) Competitive study of Elitox vs Toxin Binder on the performance without testing mycotoxin in feed of broiler breeders in field condition
https://en.engormix.com/mycotoxins/articles/testing-mycotoxin-in-feed-of-broiler-breeders-t34390.htm

Oguz M, Bahcivan E, Erdogan T, Yalcin NF, Ozdas A, Kursat Isık M, Altunbas O (2022) In vitro mycotoxin binding capacities of clays, glucomannan and their combinations
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35597522/

Quinn et al (2014) Secondary plant products causing photosensitization in grazing herbivores: their structure, activity and regulation
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3907879/

Tomasevic-Canovic M, Dakovic A, Markovic V and Stojsic D (2001) The effect of exchangeable cations in clinoptilolite and montmorillonite on the adsorption of aflatoxin B 
http://en.engormix.com/MA-mycotoxins/articles/the-effect-exchangeable-cations-t95/p0.htm

Van Hamme (2014) Impact of a T-2 contaminated feed and a mycotoxin eliminator (Elitox) on immunological, liver and intestinal parameters in broilers
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/27728

Mycosorb Bibliography 2017
Mycosorb-Research

Zeolite information
https://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/integrative-medicine/herbs/zeolite

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