Aflatoxins (AF) are toxic metabolites primarily produced by molds, Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus parasiticus. Contamination of poultry feed with AF is a major concern to the poultry industry due to severe economic losses stemming from poor performance, reduced egg production, and diminished egg hatchability. This study investigated the inhibitory effect of 2 generally regarded as safe (GRAS), natural plant compounds, namely carvacrol (CR) and trans-cinnamaldehyde (TC), on A. flavus and A. parasiticus growth and AF production in potato dextrose broth (PDB) and in poultry feed. In broth culture, PDB supplemented with CR (0%, 0.02%, 0.04% and 0.08%) or TC (0%, 0.005%, 0.01% and 0.02%) was inoculated with A. flavus or A. parasiticus (6 log CFU/mL), and mold counts and AF production were determined on days 0, 1, 3, and 5. Similarly, 200 g portions of poultry feed supplemented with CR or TC (0%, 0.4%, 0.8%, and 1.0%) were inoculated with each mold, and their counts and AF concentrations in the feed were determined at 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 8, and 12 weeks of storage. Moreover, the effect of CR and TC on the expression of AF synthesis genes in A. flavus and A. parasiticus (aflC, nor1, norA, and ver1) was determined using real-time quantitative PCR (RT-qPCR). All experiments had duplicate samples and were replicated 3 times. Results indicated that CR and TC reduced A. flavus and A. parasiticus growth and AF production in broth culture and chicken feed (P<0.05). All tested concentrations of CR and TC decreased AF production in broth culture and chicken feed by at least 60% when compared to controls (P<0.05). In addition, CR and TC down-regulated the expression of major genes associated with AF synthesis in the molds (P<0.05). Results suggest the potential use of CR and TC as feed additives to control AF contamination in poultry feed.
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