Ann Am Thorac Soc. 2021 Nov 17. doi: 10.1513/AnnalsATS.202101-096OC. Online ahead of print.
RATIONALE: Epidemiologic studies have demonstrated that exposure to molds and other fungi can play a role in a variety of allergic and pulmonary diseases in susceptible individuals. Species-specific mold antigen extracts are used in the clinical evaluation of suspected mold-related conditions, however alignment between these extracts and the species of molds identified in the indoor environment of water-damaged homes has not been rigorously evaluated.
OBJECTIVES: To identify the predominant genera and species of mold in the air of homes with water damage, mold growth, and/or occupants with respiratory complaints (complaint homes), and to assess their alignment with the mold antigen extracts used in clinical practice.
METHODS: The genera and species of molds identified in culture-type outdoor and indoor air samples collected from complaint homes throughout the U.S. and Canada from 2002-2017 were examined. Mold antigen extracts available and utilized for skin and serum testing in clinical practice were assessed and alignment between these data were evaluated.
RESULTS: Culture data from 24,455 indoor air samples from 7,547 complaint homes and 29,493 outdoor samples was evaluated. Mean exposure values (CFU/m3) were calculated for each genus and species, and indoor vs outdoor values compared. Penicillium was the predominant genus identified in water-damaged homes, with a mean exposure (233.3 CFU/m3) 2.9 times higher than that of the Aspergillus genus (81.4 CFU/m3). Five Penicillium (P. aurantiogriseum, P. brevicompactum, P. citrinum, P. crustosum, and P. variabile) and three Aspergillus (A. versicolor, A. sydowii, and A. niger) species were identified as the predominant indoor water-damage related fungi. However, none of these Penicillium species and only one of the Aspergillus species is currently available as an antigen extract for use in skin testing or serum testing panels.
CONCLUSIONS: Significant misalignment exists between the currently available mold antigen extracts and the predominant species of molds found in water-damaged homes. Improving alignment has the potential to enhance diagnosis of mold-related diseases including allergic asthma and hypersensitivity pneumonitis and to improve patient outcomes via interventions including antigen avoidance through building remediation and occupant relocation, consistent with the findings of a recent ATS Workshop Report.