PESAR: Prenatal Exposure to Mycotoxins: Exploring the Association with Low Birthweight / Height in Guatemala

Guatemala cooperativemycotoxins on corn


Malnutrition is a serious problem in Guatemala. Despite significant investments to reduce malnutrition, rates have changed minimally, suggesting that other factors could be affecting malnutrition. Exposure to mycotoxins, toxins produced from fungi on crops such as corn, during pregnancy has been associated with low birthweight and length of infants in other countries. Guatemalan culture includes making and eating foods that contain corn such as tamales and tortillas. Given that corn is a staple of the Guatemalan diet, mycotoxins may play a role in the high rate of malnutrition.

PESAR will conduct a case-control study to explore the association of exposure to mycotoxins during pregnancy and low birth weight and height in order to engage stakeholders on risk-based decision making in food safety.

The exposure level of the mothers and infants to mycotoxins will be estimated through a bottom-up and top-down approach. Food frequency and sociodemographic questionnaires will be completed as well as the collection of breast milk and urine samples. The results from this study will be shared with Guatemalan healthcare, governmental and non-governmental organizations with the goal of informing regulatory decisions and messaging for pregnant mothers.

The overarching goal of PESAR is to improve the understanding of the role of mycotoxins in adverse birth outcomes in Guatemala, describing the current status of the problem in order to provide context for stakeholders to aid in stopping the cycle of malnutrition.

OSU Project Team: Barbara Kowalcyk (co-PI), Ariel Garsow

Collaborators: Olga Torres (co-PI) and Jorge Matute (CIENSA), Kinnon Scott (World Bank)

Funding: This project is supported by the Governtment of Guatemala through Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología, the World Bank, Labritorio Diagnóstico Molecular, an Ohio State Connect and Collaborate grant, and OSU’s Department of Food Science and Technology