Human aflatoxin exposure in Uganda: estimates from a subset of the 2011 Uganda AIDS indicator survey (UAIS)

Nicholas C Zitomer, Abigael O Awuor, Marc-Alain Widdowson, Johnni H Daniel, Maya R Sternberg, Michael E Rybak, Edward K Mbidde

Research output: Contribution to journalA1: Web of Science-articlepeer-review


Aflatoxins are carcinogenic mycotoxins that contaminate a variety of crops worldwide. Acute exposure can cause liver failure, and chronic exposure can lead to stunting in children and liver cancer in adults. We estimated aflatoxin exposure across Uganda by measuring a serum biomarker of aflatoxin exposure in a subsample from the 2011 Uganda AIDS Indicator Survey, a nationally representative survey of HIV prevalence, and examined its association with geographic, demographic, and socioeconomic variables. We analysed a subsample of 985 serum specimens selected among HIV-negative participants from 10 survey-defined geographic regions for serum aflatoxin B1-lysine (AFB1-lys) by use of isotope dilution LC-MS/MS and calculated results normalised to serum albumin. We used statistical techniques for censored data to estimate geometric means (GMs), standard deviations, and percentiles. We detected serum AFB1-lys in 71.7% of specimens (LOD = 0.5 pg/mg albumin). Unadjusted GM AFB1-lys (pg/mg albumin) was 1.33 (95% CI: 1.21-1.47). Serum AFB1-lys was higher in males (GM: 1.57; 95% CI: 1.38-1.80) vs. females (GM: 1.12; 95% CI: 0.97-1.30) (P = .0019), and higher in persons residing in urban settings (GM: 2.83; 95% CI: 2.37-3.37) vs. rural (GM: 1.10; 95% CI: 0.99-1.23) (P < .0001). When we used a multivariable censored regression model to assess confounding and interactions among variables we found that survey region, gender, age, occupation, distance to marketplace, and number of meals per day were statistically significant predictors of aflatoxin exposure. While not nationally representative, our findings provide an improved understanding of the widespread burden of aflatoxin exposure throughout Uganda and identify key geographic, demographic, and socioeconomic factors that may modulate aflatoxin exposure risk.

Original languageEnglish
JournalFood Additives & Contaminants. Part A, Chemistry, Analysis, Control, Exposure & Risk Assessment
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)136-147
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 2021


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