Optimization and validation of a LC-HRMS method for aflatoxins determination in urine samples

Francesca Debegnach, Carlo Brera, Gianmarco Mazzilli, Elisa Sonego, Francesca Buiarelli, Fulvio Ferri, Paolo Giorgi Rossi, Giorgia Collini, Barbara De Santis

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Mycotoxins' exposure by inhalation and/or dermal contact can occur in different branches of industry especially where heavily dusty settings are present and the handling of dusty commodities is performed. This study aims to explore the possible contribution of the occupational exposure to aflatoxins by analysing urine samples for the presence of aflatoxins B1 and M1 and aflatoxin B1-N7-guanine adduct. The study was conducted in 2017 on two groups of volunteers, the workers group, composed by personnel employed in an Italian feed plant (n = 32), and a control group (n = 29), composed by the administrative employees of the same feed plant; a total of 120 urine samples were collected and analysed. A screening method and a quantitative method with high-resolution mass spectrometry determination were developed and fully validated. Limits of detections were 0.8 and 1.5 pg/mLurine for aflatoxin B1 and M1, respectively. No quantitative determination was possible for the adduct aflatoxin B1-N7-guanine. Aflatoxin B1 and its adduct were not detected in the analysed samples, and aflatoxin M1, instead, was found in 14 samples (12%) within the range 1.9-10.5 pg/mLurine. Only one sample showed a value above the limit of quantification (10.5 pg/mLurine). The absence of a statistical difference between the mean values for workers and the control group which were compared suggests that in this specific setting, no professional exposure occurs. Furthermore, considering the very low level of aflatoxin M1 in the collected urine samples, the contribution from the diet to the overall exposure is to be considered negligible.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)257-266
Number of pages10
JournalMycotoxin Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - May 2020


  • Adult
  • Aflatoxin B1/urine
  • Aflatoxin M1/urine
  • Aflatoxins/urine
  • Aged
  • Food Contamination/analysis
  • Humans
  • Italy
  • Limit of Detection
  • Male
  • Mass Spectrometry/methods
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Exposure
  • Portugal


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