Bioaerosol Lung Damage in a Worker with Repeated Exposure to Fungi in a Water-Damaged Building

Douglas Trout,1 Jonathan Bernstein,2 Kenneth Martinez,1 Raymond Biagini,3 and Kenneth Wallingford1

1Division of Surveillance, Hazard Evaluation and Field Studies, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA
2Division of Immunology, Allergy Section, University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA
3Division of Applied Research and Technology, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA

There has been increased concern over health effects related to potential exposure of building occupants to bioaerosols. We report the case of a worker with a respiratory illness related to bioaerosol exposure in a water-damaged building with extensive fungal contamination. We performed environmental tests to evaluate potential exposure to fungi, and we used mycotoxin-specific IgG antibody in serologic studies in the attempt to evaluate exposure to mycotoxins. Extensive fungal contamination was documented in many areas of the building. Penicillium, Aspergillus, and Stachybotrys species were the most predominant fungi found in air sampling. Our serologic test was not useful in differentiating workers who were probably occupationally exposed to mycotoxins from those who were not; however, it did yield evidence that individuals may make specific IgG antibodies to macrocyclic tricothecene mycotoxins. Further research is needed concerning health effects related to bioaerosol exposures, particularly regarding markers of exposure to specific fungi that may produce mycotoxins. In the absence of clinical tools specific for evaluation of mycotoxin-related illness, a systematic clinical approach for evaluating persons with suspected building-related respiratory illness is warranted.

Key words: bioaerosol, building-related illness, fungi, hypersensitivity pneumonitis, mycotoxin, Stachybotrys, water damage. Environ Health Perspect 109:641-644 (2001). [Online 15 June 2001]

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