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On the safety of Aspergillus niger – a review

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Aspergillus niger is one of the most important microorganisms used in biotechnology. It has been in use already for many decades to produce extracellular (food) enzymes and citric acid. In fact, citric acid and many A. niger enzymes are considered GRAS by the United States Food and Drug Administration. In addition, A. niger is used for biotransformations and waste treatment. In the last two decades, A. niger has been developed as an important transformation host to over-express food enzymes. Being pre-dated by older names, the name A. niger has been conserved for economical and information retrieval reasons and there is a taxonomical consensus based on molecular data that the only other common species closely related to A. niger in the Aspergillus series Nigri is A. tubingensis. A. niger, like other filamentous fungi, should be treated carefully to avoid the formation of spore dust. However, compared with other filamentous fungi, it does not stand out as a particular problem concerning allergy or mycopathology. A few medical cases, e.g. lung infections, have been reported, but always in severely immunocompromised patients. In tropical areas, ear infections (otomycosis) do occur due to A. niger invasion of the outer ear canal but this may be caused by mechanical damage of the skin barrier. A. niger strains produce a series of secondary metabolites, but it is only ochratoxin A that can be regarded as a mycotoxin in the strict sense of the word. Only 3–10% of the strains examined for ochratoxin A production have tested positive under favourable conditions. New and unknown isolates should be checked for ochratoxin A production before they are developed as production organisms. It is concluded, with these restrictions, that A. niger is a safe production organism.

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Schuster, .E., Dunn-Coleman, .N., Frisvad, .J. et al. On the safety of Aspergillus niger – a review. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol 59, 426–435 (2002).

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