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Is a common food fungus worsening the AIDS epidemic?

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A type of fungus coating much of the stored corn, wheat, rice and nuts in developing countries may be quietly worsening the AIDS epidemic, according to a paper published today in the World Mycotoxin Journal.

Kept in sacks piled in barns and warehouses, food stores in countries near the equator are contaminated by Aspergillus flavus and A. parasiticus, fungi that produce a toxic substance called aflatoxin. About 4.5 billion people worldwide are exposed to aflatoxin at unsafe levels, and chronic exposure has been linked to liver damage and related cancers; but its role in the spread of infectious disease could make it even more deadly.

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