Clinical & Experimental Allergy

Prevalence and residential determinants of fungi within homes in Melbourne, Australia

Authors


Dharmage Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, Monash Medical School, Alfred Hospital, Prahran, Vic. 3181, Australia.

Abstract

Background

Recent epidemiological studies suggest that the adverse respiratory health effects caused by the inhalation of fungal propagules are substantial. Knowledge of the prevalence and environmental determinants of indoor fungal levels is essential in designing effective avoidance measures.

Aim

To investigate the prevalence of fungi and the influence of residential characteristics on levels of fungi within homes in Melbourne, Australia.

Methods

Floor dust and air samples were collected from bedrooms in 485 houses over 1 year. The dust was analysed for ergosterol, a marker of cumulative fungal biomass exposure. Total and genera-specific fungal propagules were identified in air samples. Details of the relevant residential characteristics were documented using a questionnaire. Independent predictors (P < 0.05) of ergosterol and total fungal propagules were identified by multiple linear regression.

Results

Fifty-five percent of the houses had viable fungal propagules exceeding 500 CFU/m3. Cladosporium and Penicillium were identified as the most prevalent and abundant fungal genera in indoor air. The median ergosterol level in bedroom floor was 3.8 μg/g of dust. Multivariate analysis showed that total fungal propagules in indoor air were lower in bedrooms with a ceiling fan, without visible mould, and those that were more frequently vacuumed, had a solid fuel fire, had windows closed at the time of the sampling or lacked pets. The presence of more than one cat had the greatest effect on total fungal propagules. Ergosterol levels were significantly lower in homes without old fitted carpets, visible mould or pets and those with frequent airing and regular use of an extractor fan in the kitchen. Old wall-to-wall carpets had the greatest effect on ergosterol.

Conclusions

High indoor fungal exposures were associated with infrequent ventilation or vacuuming, presence of pets, visible mould and old carpets.

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