Detection of airborne stachybotrys chartarum macrocyclic trichothecene mycotoxins in the indoor environment

T. L. Brasel, J. M. Martin, C. G. Carriker, S. C. Wilson, and D. C. Straus*

Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, Lubbock, Texas 79430

Received 9 March 2005/ Accepted 12 July 2005

The existence of airborne mycotoxins in mold-contaminated buildings has long been hypothesized to be a potential occupant health risk. However, little work has been done to demonstrate the presence of these compounds in such environments. The presence of airborne macrocyclic trichothecene mycotoxins in indoor environments with known Stachybotrys chartarum contamination was therefore investigated. In seven buildings, air was collected using a high-volume liquid impaction bioaerosol sampler (SpinCon PAS 450-10) under static or disturbed conditions. An additional building was sampled using an Andersen GPS-1 PUF sampler modified to separate and collect particulates smaller than conidia. Four control buildings (i.e., no detectable S. chartarum growth or history of water damage) and outdoor air were also tested. Samples were analyzed using a macrocyclic trichothecene-specific enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). ELISA specificity was tested using phosphate-buffered saline extracts of the fungal genera Aspergillus, Chaetomium, Cladosporium, Fusarium, Memnoniella, Penicillium, Rhizopus, and Trichoderma, five Stachybotrys strains, and the indoor air allergens Can f 1, Der p 1, and Fel d 1. For test buildings, the results showed that detectable toxin concentrations increased with the sampling time and short periods of air disturbance. Trichothecene values ranged from <10 to >1,300 pg/m3 of sampled air. The control environments demonstrated statistically significantly (P < 0.001) lower levels of airborne trichothecenes. ELISA specificity experiments demonstrated a high specificity for the trichothecene-producing strain of S. chartarum. Our data indicate that airborne macrocyclic trichothecenes can exist in Stachybotrys-contaminated buildings, and this should be taken into consideration in future indoor air quality investigations.


Corresponding author. Mailing address: Department of Microbiology and Immunology, TTUHSC, 3601 4th St., Lubbock, TX 79430.