FT-IR spectroscopy as a tool for rapid identification and intra-species characterization of airborne filamentous fungi

Fischer G, Braun S, Thissen R, Dott W.

Institute of Hygiene and Environmental Medicine, University Hospital RWTH Aachen, Pauwelsstrabetae 30, D-52057 Aachen, Germany.

Identification of microfungi is time-consuming due to cultivation and microscopic examination and can be influenced by the interpretation of the macro- and micro-morphological characters observed. Fungal conidia contain mycotoxins that may be present in bioaerosols and thus the capacity for production of mycotoxins (and allergens) needs to be investigated to create a basis for reliable risk assessment in environmental and occupational hygiene. The present investigation aimed to create a simple but sophisticated method for the preparation of samples and the identification of airborne fungi by FT-IR spectroscopy. The method was suited to reproducibly differentiate Aspergillus and Penicillium species on the generic, the species, and the strain level. There are strong indications that strains of one taxon differing in metabolite production can be reliably distinguished by FT-IR spectroscopy (e.g. Aspergillus parasiticus). On the other hand, species from different taxa being similar in secondary metabolite production showed comparably higher similarities. The results obtained here can serve as a basis for the development of a database for species identification and strain characterization of microfungi. The method presented here will improve and facilitate the risk assessment in case of bioaerosol exposure, as strains with different physiological properties (e.g. toxic, non-toxic) could be differentiated. Moreover, it has the potential to significantly improve the identification of microfungi in various fields of applied microbiological research, e.g. high throughput screening in view of specific physiological properties, biodiversity studies, inventories in environmental microbiology, and quality control measures.

PMID: 16229914 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]