earlyMYCO – Early-life exposure to MYCOtoxins and its impact on health


Paula Cristina Alvito


Programa Operacional Regional do Alentejo; Programa Operacional Regional de Lisboa


01/10/2018 - 31/05/2022

Total Funding

239985 €

Proponent Institution

Instituto Nacional de Saúde Dr. Ricardo Jorge, Lisboa

Participating Institutions

  • Fundação Champalimaud
  • Universidade de Évora
  • Escola Nacional de Saúde Pública

Exposure to hazardous chemicals during first 1000 days of life has been linked to an increased risk of a number of health disorders. Early-life exposure to chemicals is an emerging research field that needs urgently to be clarified, as an attempt to contribute to the exposome research. Food chemical contaminants as mycotoxins are well known carcinogenic, nephrotoxic, hepatotoxic and immunosuppressive compounds. Intestinal mucosa is the first biological barrier encountered by ingested mycotoxins and potential consequences of an early-exposure to these compounds is poorly documented. Recent studies reported that Portuguese children until 3 years old are exposed to multiple mycotoxins through food consumption and this constitutes a potential health threat. Face to this situation, this project hypothesizes that early-life exposure to mycotoxins could impact children?s and future adult health. Thus, a new project, earlyMYCO, proposes to answer key questions: are pregnant women and infants until six months exposed to mycotoxins? Is this exposure a health threat? Does this early-life exposure influence the intestinal immune system development? Which is the burden derived from the exposure to mycotoxins?
To answer these questions, first-line methodologies will be developed in five tasks comprising i) an epidemiological study including the recruitment of pregnant women and infants, food survey and biological samples collection, led by National School of Public Health (ENSP) in a close collaboration with the Primary Health Care Group (ACES) from Lisboa region; ii) mycotoxin
exposure assessment in pregnant women and infants using biomarkers of exposure, led by the National Institute of Health Dr. Ricardo Jorge (INSA); iii) in vivo experimental assays to determine the intestinal immune consequences upon early-life exposure to mycotoxins, performed by Champalimaud Foundation (CF); iv) metagenomic approach to study the impact of mycotoxins early-life exposure on gut microbiota, led by University of Évora (UE); and v) a final integrative task, to gather epidemiological and experimental data and characterize the risk associated with early-life exposure to mycotoxins, led by INSA. Multidisciplinary collaboration will be a gold standard that will support an effective communication between medical sciences, public health and toxicology professionals. For the first time in Portugal, this project will create a network that gathers knowledge on early-life exposure to mycotoxins, providing an initial structure for a future population-based biobank available to assess children?s exposure to chemical contaminants.