Lactobacillus and Aflatoxin

The human microbiome is attracting a lot of scientific research, and for good reason. The microbiome’s involvement in the body’s network of systems is vast and impactful. It seems the microbiome is deserving of something that supersedes “organ”, as it connects the body on a level kin to the blood. Bacteria provide us with immunity, metabolic and digestive support, and bring a fresh new meaning to the term “Live organism”. Maybe our hosts of bacteria are as powerful as the Traditional Chinese Medicine concept of “Qi”. One thing is for certain, there is an infinite need for further research dedicated to the topic of gut bacteria.

I came across a decent amount of research concerning the strain of lactobacillus and its power to adsorb and excrete aflatoxin. Aflatoxin is a mycotoxin, or a carcinogen that is a byproduct of fungus.1 This fungal infestation is common in many popular food crops, most commonly acknowledged in peanuts.2 Next time you see/taste that “bad peanut”, spit it out because aflatoxin (more specifically AFB1 the particularly deadly version) is ranked as a “Group 1 carcinogen for humans by the International Agency for Research on Cancer”.3 Aflatoxin is destructive to the liver and has the capacity to cause hepatic cancers through enabling ROS generation, effecting mitochondrial respiration, immunosuppression and shutting down apoptosis.43

Lactobacillus and bifidobacterium found in kefir, tofu and other fermented food products have demonstrated protective powers against aflatoxin by absorption-prevention and deflecting the liver from exposure.2,3 Our microbiome acts as a shield and promotes excretion of this mycotoxin through the feces.3 This is particularly exciting for the nutrition community because this is a mechanism we can support through the diet, and possibly supplementation once research resolves questions. This research provides answers about how to target specific actions through particular strains. While we may be able to use lacto and bifido therapeutically, there is still a lot we don’t know about those strains as well, and the nutrition community will benefit from increased research findings on the topic of the microbiome.


1.         Taheur FB, Fedhila K, Chaieb K, Kouidhi B, Bakhrouf A, Abrunhosa L. Adsorption of aflatoxin B1, zearalenone and ochratoxin A by microorganisms isolated from Kefir grains. Int J Food Microbiol. 2017;251:1-7. doi:10.1016/j.ijfoodmicro.2017.03.021.

2.         Ghazvini RD, Kouhsari E, Zibafar E, Hashemi SJ, Amini A, Niknejad F. Antifungal Activity and Aflatoxin Degradation of Bifidobacterium Bifidum and Lactobacillus Fermentum Against Toxigenic Aspergillus Parasiticus. Open Microbiol J. 2016;10:197. doi:10.2174/1874285801610010197.

3.         Huang L, Duan C, Zhao Y, et al. Reduction of Aflatoxin B1 Toxicity by Lactobacillus plantarum C88: A Potential Probiotic Strain Isolated from Chinese Traditional Fermented Food “Tofu.” PLoS ONE. 2017;12(1). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0170109.

4.         Wang W-J, Xu Z-L, Yu C, Xu X-H. Effects of aflatoxin B1 on mitochondrial respiration, ROS generation and apoptosis in broiler cardiomyocytes. Anim Sci J.:n/a-n/a. doi:10.1111/asj.12796.



Kate Stoddard