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MYCOTOXINS AND THE BIBLE R. SCHOENTAL* Moulds grow when humidity is high. About 100,000 species ofmoulds are known, but only some ofthese are toxigenic and produce deleterious secondary metabolites. These are known as mycotoxins and develop when the environmental conditions, such as moisture, temperature, and nutrients, are conducive to the growth of moulds and to the production of specific mycotoxins. Stored grain and other agricultural products are usually contaminated by a variety of microorganisms and by their secondary metabolites. The effects of consumption of such food will depend on the types and the levels of the respective mycotoxins present in the mixture [I]. There is little doubt that, from the remotest past to the present day, mycotoxins have been the cause of various disorders of animals and man, but their relationships have seldom been recognised. Because of the scientific studies of mycotoxins during the past 20 years, it is now possible to attempt an interpretation ofcertain diseases and other occurrences described in the past, especially in the Bible, in relation to possible exposure to mycotoxins. The ten plagues of Egypt present good examples of how mycotoxins might have played a role in the events that followed the cataclysmic geoand meteorological phenomena that preceded the exodus of the Children of Israel from Egypt. The Ten Plagues ofEgypt The plagues began with the èfoocflike appearance ofthe water (the first plague: blood). Such a phenomenon is known as a red tide. It is due to extreme proliferation of dinoflagellate organisms producing pigments that give water a red appearance [2]. These organisms also produce a water soluble poison that results in aquatic creatures, including frogs (the second plague: frogs), leaving the water and spreading on the banks and into the houses—to die and to decompose there. They would thus become a source of infestation, vermin (the third plague: vermin). The»Department of Pathology, Royal Veterinary College, University of London, Royal Veterinary Street, London NWl OTU.© 1984 by The University of Chicago. All rights reserved. 0031-5982/85/2801-0408$01.00 Perspectives in Biology andMedicine, 28, 1 · Autumn 1984 | 1 17 decomposing frogs would attract flies (the fourth plague: flies). "The houses of the Egyptians shall be full of swarms of flies"; "I will sever in that day the land of Goshen, in which my people dwell [which must have been more remote from the red water] that no swarms of flies shall be there" (Exod. 8:21-22). The flies would have been spreading infection "a very grievous pestilence, murrain among animals and man" (the fifth plague: murrain). As the land of Goshen was free of flies, it was not affected by the murrain (Exod. 9:4); "of the cattle of the children of Israel died not one" (Exod. 9:6). "Then Moses took ashes of the furnace and sprinkled it up toward heaven [Exod. 9:10]; and it became a boil breaking dust forth with blains upon man and upon beast" (the sixth plague: boils). The interpretation of this sentence is difficult; it suggests some sort of eruption (volcanic?) accompanied by deposition of dust (and possibly fungal spores?) on animals and man which caused irritation and inflammation. Next came hail and rain. "So there was hail [the seventh plague: hail], and fire mingled with the hail, very grievous, such as there was none like it in all the land of Egypt since it became a nation. And the hail smote throughout all the land of Egypt all that was in the field, both man and beast; and the hail smote every herb of the field, and brake every tree of the field. Only in the land of Goshen, where the children of Israel were, was there no hail" (Exod. 9:24-26). Then "the Lord brought an east wind upon the land, all that day and all that night and when it was morning the east wind brought the locusts" (Exod. 10:13 [the eighth plague: locusts]). "They covered the face of the whole earth, so that the land was darkened; and they did eat every herb of the land, and all the fruit of the trees which the hail had left; and there remained not any green thing in...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1529-8795
Print ISSN
0031-5982
Pages
pp. 117-120
Launched on MUSE
2015-01-07
Open Access
No
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