Assessing allergenic fungi in house dust by floor wipe sampling and quantitative PCR

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In the present study, we modified an existing surface wipe sampling method for lead and other heavy metals to create a protocol to collect fungi in floor dust followed by real-time quantitative PCR (qPCR)-based detection. We desired minimal inconvenience for participants in residential indoor environmental quality and health studies. Accuracy, precision, and method detection limits (MDLs) were investigated. Overall, MDLs ranged from 0.6 to 25 cell/cm2 on sampled floors. Overall measurement precisions expressed as the coefficient of variation because of sample processing and qPCR ranged 6–63%. Median and maximum fungal concentrations in house dust in study homes in Visalia, Tulare County, California, were 110 and 2500 cell/cm2, respectively, with universal fungal primers (allergenic and nonallergenic species). The field study indicated samplings in multiple seasons were necessary to characterize representative whole-year fungal concentrations in residential microenvironments. This was because significant temporal variations were observed within study homes. Combined field and laboratory results suggested this modified new wipe sampling method, in conjunction with growth-independent qPCR, shows potential to improve human exposure and health studies for fungal pathogens and allergens in dust in homes of susceptible, vulnerable population subgroups.

Practical Implications

Fungi are ubiquitous in indoor and outdoor environments, and many fungi are known to cause allergic reactions and exacerbate asthma attacks. This study established—by modifying an existing—a wipe sampling method to collect fungi in floor dust followed by real-time quantitative PCR (qPCR)-based detection methodologies. Results from this combined laboratory and field assessment suggested the methodology’s potential to inform larger human exposure studies for fungal pathogens and allergens in house dust as well as epidemiologic studies of children with asthma and older adults with chronic respiratory diseases.

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