Exposure to certain airborne fungal spores in early childhood may increase the risk of developing non-fungal allergies, according to researchers at the University of Cincinnati, Ohio. Conversely, some fungal types seem to protect against the development of allergies.
“It turns out that the health effects of airborne fungal spores are more complicated than we thought,” one of the researchers, Dr. Tiina Reponen, said in a statement.
Reponen and colleagues examined the possible health consequences of such exposure in a study of 144 infants, published in the June 14th online issue of Pediatric Allergy and Immunology.
The subjects were evaluated and underwent skin prick tests for 17 allergens. They were then fitted with the Button Personal Inhalable Aerosol Sampler, (SKC), a device that samples air over 48 hours and is almost 100-percent effective in collecting particles of 1 micrometer in diameter.
Although no relationship was seen between total fungal counts and positive results on the skin prick test, there were several significant associations between types of fungi and health outcomes.
The researchers found a correlation between detection of Basidiospores and nasal infection, as well as between Penicillium and Aspergillus and testing positive for any allergen.
However, there was an inverse association between exposure to Cladosporium and having a positive skin test for any allergen.
The researchers suggest that some type of fungi increase the likelihood of developing allergies, while others may have a protective effect.
“To understand the clinical implications of these findings, Reponen told Reuters Health, “we need to continue the follow-up these children and investigate how the early exposure affects their health later in life.”
SOURCE: Pediatric Allergy and Immunology, June 14, 2006 online.
Revision date: July 7, 2011
Last revised: by Jorge P. Ribeiro, MD