The trichothecene mycotoxin deoxynivalenol (DON) is a contaminant of crops worldwide and known to cause adverse health effects in exposed animals and humans. A small survey reported the presence of DON in maize samples in Bangladesh, but these data are insufficient to assess human exposure, and also, biomonitoring data are still scarce. The present study applied biomarker analysis to investigate the DON exposure of pregnant women in Bangladesh. Urine samples were collected from pregnant women living in a rural (n
= 32) and in a suburban (n
= 22) area of the country. Urines were subjected to enzymatic hydrolysis of glucuronic acid conjugates and to immunoaffinity column clean-up prior to LC-MS/MS analysis of DON and its de-epoxy metabolite DOM-1. The limits of detection (LOD) for DON and DOM-1 in urine were 0.16 ng/mL and 0.10 ng/mL, respectively. DOM-1 was not detected in any of the urines, whilst DON was detectable in 52% of the samples at levels ranging from 0.18–7.16 ng/mL and a mean DON concentration of 0.86 ± 1.57 ng/mL or 2.14 ± 4.74 ng/mg creatinine. A significant difference in mean urinary DON levels was found between the rural (0.47 ± 0.73 ng/mL) and suburban (1.44 ± 2.20 ng/mL) cohort, which may be related to different food habits in the two cohorts. Analysis of food consumption data for the participants did not show significant correlations between their intake of typical staple foods and DON levels in urine. The biomarker concentrations found and published urinary excretion rates for DON were used to estimate daily mycotoxin intake in the cohort: the mean DON intake was 0.05 µg/kg b.w., and the maximum intake was 0.46 µg/kg b.w., values lower than the tolerable daily intake of 1 µg/kg b.w. These first results indicate a low dietary exposure of pregnant women in Bangladesh to DON. Nonetheless, further biomonitoring studies in children and in adult cohorts from other parts of the country are of interest to gain more insight into DON exposure in the population of Bangladesh.
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