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The Sensitivity of the Optic Nerve to Biotoxins: A Closer Look at Mycotoxins from Mold Spores

Written by Portland Clinic of Natural Health on August 16, 2023

The human body, in all its complexity, has evolved over millennia to cope with a myriad of challenges. Yet, there remain vulnerabilities, especially when it comes to the delicate structures of our sensory organs. The optic nerve, which acts as the bridge between the eye and the brain, conveying visual information, is one such vulnerable structure. This nerve, despite its vital role, can be susceptible to various toxins, including biotoxins. One class of these biotoxins is mycotoxins, secondary metabolites produced by mold spores. Here, we delve into the evidence of how these mycotoxins can impact the optic nerve.

Mycotoxins: A Brief Overview

Mycotoxins are toxic compounds produced by fungi, primarily molds. Common types of mycotoxins include aflatoxins, ochratoxins, and trichothecenes. These toxins can contaminate food and air, especially in damp environments. When ingested, inhaled, or even just coming into contact with the skin, they can cause a variety of health problems.

Direct Evidence of Impact on the Optic Nerve

While extensive research is still underway, some studies suggest a link between exposure to mycotoxins and visual disturbances.

For instance:

Ochratoxin A

A well-known nephrotoxic mycotoxin, it has been found to induce oxidative stress in various body tissues. Oxidative stress is a known factor in many ocular diseases, suggesting that ochratoxin A can contribute to optic nerve damage. (1)


This mold, which produces fumonisin mycotoxins, has been linked to outbreaks of Fusarium keratitis, an infection of the cornea. While the primary focus is on the cornea, any eye infection can raise concerns about the potential involvement or secondary damage to the optic nerve. (2)

Indirect Effects

Mycotoxins can lead to systemic inflammatory responses. Chronic inflammation has been tied to a variety of diseases, including those of the eye such as optic neuritis – an inflammation of the optic nerve. (3)

Case Reports

While anecdotal, there have been reports of individuals exposed to mold-contaminated environments experiencing visual disturbances. While these individual cases can't establish causality, they emphasize the need for further research on the topic. (4)

The Sensitivity of the Optic Nerve to Biotoxins

The sensitivity of the optic nerve to biotoxins, particularly mycotoxins, is a growing area of research. While direct evidence still needs reinforcement, preliminary data and understanding of systemic responses to mycotoxins suggest possible implications for ocular health. (5, 6)

For those living in mold-prone environments, it’s crucial to be vigilant about mold control and aware of the broader health implications, including the potential risks to vision. Regular eye check-ups and prompt attention to visual disturbances can help in early detection and intervention.


  1. Tao Y, Xie S, Xu F, Liu A, Wang Y, Chen D, Pan Y, Huang L, Peng D, Wang X, Yuan Z. Ochratoxin A: Toxicity, oxidative stress and metabolism. Food Chem Toxicol. 2018 Feb;112:320-331. doi: 10.1016/j.fct.2018.01.002. Epub 2018 Jan 5. PMID: 29309824.
  2. Szaliński M, Zgryźniak A, Rubisz I, Gajdzis M, Kaczmarek R, Przeździecka-Dołyk J. Fusarium Keratitis-Review of Current Treatment Possibilities. J Clin Med. 2021 Nov 23;10(23):5468. doi: 10.3390/jcm10235468. PMID: 34884170; PMCID: PMC8658515.
  3. Hamilton D. Understanding Mycotoxin-induced Illness: Part 1. Altern Ther Health Med. 2022 Jul;28(5):8-11. PMID: 36069791.
  4. Kerrison JB. Optic neuropathies caused by toxins and adverse drug reactions. Ophthalmol Clin North Am. 2004 Sep;17(3):481-8; viii. doi: 10.1016/j.ohc.2004.05.005. PMID: 15337202.
  5. Campbell AW, Anyanwu EC, Vojdani A. Combination of high-dose intravenous immunoglobulins and itraconozole in treating chronic mycotic demyelinating optic neuritis. ScientificWorldJournal. 2003 Aug 2;3:640-6. doi: 10.1100/tsw.2003.49. PMID: 12920306; PMCID: PMC5974607.
  6. Empting LD. Neurologic and neuropsychiatric syndrome features of mold and mycotoxin exposure. Toxicol Ind Health. 2009 Oct-Nov;25(9-10):577-81. doi: 10.1177/0748233709348393. PMID: 19854819.

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