Evaluation of inner exposure of horses to zearalenone (ZEN), deoxynivalenol (DON) and their metabolites in relation to colic and health-related clinical-chemical traits
Mycotoxin contaminated feed has been associated with colic of horses caused by intestinal disorders. Whether such disease conditions alter the intestinal toxin metabolism and transfer across a compromised mucosal barrier is unknown. A screening approach was used to relate blood residue levels of DON, ZEN and their metabolites to the status of the horses (sick vs. healthy). A total of 55 clinically healthy horses from 6 different farms with varying feeding background served as control for sick horses (N = 102) hospitalized due to colic. ZEN, alpha-zearalenol (ZEL), beta-ZEL and DON were detectable in peripheral blood as indicators for the inner exposure with significant farm effects for alpha- and beta-ZEL. However, the levels in sick horses were similar to all farms. Moreover, the proportion of beta-ZEL of all detected ZEN metabolites as an indicator for the degree of metabolism of ZEN was not different for sick horses but differed amongst the control farms. Although the incidence of DON in blood was generally low and not significantly different amongst healthy and sick horses, the positive samples were nearly exclusively found in sick horses suggesting either a higher toxin transfer, an association of DON with the development of colic or a different feeding background.