Longitudinal Assessment of Prenatal, Perinatal, and Early-Life Aflatoxin B1Exposure in 828 Mother-Child Dyads from Bangladesh and Malawi

Joshua W. Smith, Andrew J. Matchado, Lee S.F. Wu, Charles D. Arnold, Sean M. Burke, Kenneth M. Maleta, Per Ashorn, Christine P. Stewart, Saijuddin Shaikh, Hasmot Ali, Alain B. Labrique, Keith P. West, Parul Christian, Kathryn G. Dewey, John D. Groopman, Kerry J. Schulze

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: In utero or early-life exposure to aflatoxin, which contaminates staple crops in disadvantaged settings, may compromise pregnancy and infant outcomes, but investigations into the extent, persistence, and determinants of aflatoxin exposure at these life stages have lacked longitudinal data collection and broad geographic representation. Objectives: Aflatoxin exposure and selected determinants thereof were characterized in mother-child dyads with serial plasma/serum samples in prenatal, perinatal, and early life in Malawi and Bangladesh. Methods: Circulating aflatoxin B1 (AFB1)-lysine albumin adducts were measured in dyads from Bangladesh (n = 573; maternal first and third trimester, 3 mo postpartum, cord blood, infant 24 mo) and Malawi (n = 255; maternal second and third trimester, 6 mo postpartum, infant 6 and 18 mo) with isotope dilution mass spectrometry. We examined AFB1-lysine adduct magnitude, persistence, seasonality, and associations with infant feeding, and estimated daily AFB1 intake. Results: Maternal AFB1-lysine was higher in Malawi (98% detectable; median: 0.469, IQR: 0.225-1.027 pg/μL) than in Bangladesh (59%; 0.030, nondetectable [nd]-0.077 pg/μL). Although estimated dietary exposure in Malawi was temporally stable (648 ng AFB1/day), estimated intake in Bangladesh was reduced by 94% between rainy and winter seasons (98 to 6 ng/day). AFB1-lysine was low in cord blood from Bangladesh (15% detectable; 0.045, 0.031-0.088 pg/μL among detectable) and in Malawian infants at 6 mo of age (0.072, nd-0.236 pg/μL), but reached maternal concentrations by 18 or 24 mo (Bangladesh: 0.034, nd-0.063 pg/μL; Malawi: 0.370, 0.195-0.964 pg/μL). In Malawian infants, exclusive breastfeeding at 3 mo was associated with 58% lower AFB1-lysine concentrations at 6 mo compared with other feeding modes (P = 0.010). Conclusions: Among pregnant women, aflatoxin exposure was persistently high in Malawi, while lower and seasonal in Bangladesh. Infants were partially protected from exposure in utero and with exclusive breastfeeding, but exposures reached adult levels by 18-24 mo of age.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbernzab153
JournalCurrent Developments in Nutrition
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2022


  • aflatoxin
  • breastfeeding
  • cord blood
  • diet
  • infancy
  • mass spectrometry
  • pregnancy
  • seasonality
  • toxicology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)


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