Sick building syndrome III. Stachybotrys chartarum

Mahmoudi M, Gershwin ME. Journal of Asthma. April, 2000; 37(2):191-198. (Review)

Purpose: The authors reviewed the scientific literature pertaining to the health effects of Stachybotrys chartarum in humans.

Design: Review.

Outcome: The authors reviewed the early animal studies that identified Stachybotrys chartarum as a health concern. In particular, a 1931 study described an unusually high mortality rate occurred among a population of horses that had ingested moldy wheat and barley. Mahmoudi and Gershwin indicated that the majority of isolated samples from the species S. chartarum were found to produce Stachybotryotoxin, a chemical belonging to the class of fungal byproducts known as trichothecenes. The authors acknowledged that toxicity occurs only when the chemical is present in sufficient quantities, although toxic doses were not discussed. The authors proposed that trichothecene-induced toxicity may be ascribed to inhibition of several mechanisms involved in protein synthesis. The authors cited animal studies demonstrating that chemical byproducts derived from S. chartarum inhibited immune system function and produced toxicity in lung cells. The toxins produced by the fungi resulted in hemorrhagic inflammatory lung injury in mammalian lung tissue. The authors suggested that even though a concrete connection between S. chartarum and illness has not been established, the danger of exposure should not be ignored.

Significant Quotes: "First, we should emphasize that the presence of fungi in housing does not imply illness. Nonetheless, it is important to recognize the potential for illness and to improve housing conditions in order to prevent growth of toxigenic fungi and microorganisms." (p. 196).

Peer Review: Yes.

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