Fungi and cat allergen levels influence asthma and allergy manifestations

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Last Updated: 2001-08-21 11:29:24 EDT (Reuters Health)

WESTPORT, CT (Reuters Health) – Indoor levels of fungi and cat allergen (Fel d 1), but not of house dust mite allergen (Der p 1), appear to be associated with a greater risk of asthma and allergic sensitization, according to Australian researchers.

Dr. Shyamali Dharmage of the University of Melbourne and colleagues note that they assessed the influence of current exposure to these allergens in 485 young adults. All were residents of Melbourne, which "has one of the highest prevalence rates of asthma in the world," say the investigators.

In the July 1st issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, the team reports that the subjects completed questionnaires and underwent skin prick and lung function testing. Those who had wheezed in the previous 12 months and showed bronchial hyperreactivity to challenge with methacholine were deemed to have asthma.

Dust samples from the bedrooms of all subjects were evaluated to determine levels of Fel d 1, Der p 1, and ergosterol, a fungal membrane lipid used to estimate cumulative exposure to fungi. Air samples were examined to establish levels of fungal propagules.

Almost all participants were "exposed to Der p 1 levels above the proposed threshold level for sensitization," and three quarters had levels "above the proposed level for inducing attacks of asthma."

Perhaps because of such high exposure, the researchers say, there was no consistent association between Der p 1 levels and Der p 1 sensitization, wheeze, bronchial hyperreactivity and current asthma.

High levels of floor Fel d 1, however, increased the risk of cat sensitization, and high levels of bed Fel d 1 were associated with current asthma. High exposure to airborne fungi was associated with increased bronchial hyperreactivity. Ergosterol levels in house dust were "were a risk factor both for being sensitized to fungi and having wheezed within the last year."

The researchers call for further studies, but, in light of these findings suggest that measures be taken "to reduce the exposures to fungi and cat allergen in the community."

Am J Respir Crit Care Med 2001;164:65-71.

-Westport Newsroom 203 319 2700

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