Antibodies against Molds and Mycotoxins Following Exposure to Toxigenic Fungi in a Water-Damaged Building

Exposure to molds in water-damaged buildings can cause allergy, asthma, hypersensitivity pneumonitis, mucus membrane irritation, and toxicity–alone or in combination. Despite this, significant emphasis has been placed only on Type I allergy and asthma, but not on the other 3 types of allergies. In this study, we sought to evaluate simultaneous measurements of immunoglobulin (Ig) G, IgM, IgA, and IgE antibodies against the most common molds, and their mycotoxins, cultured from water-damaged buildings. Antibodies against 7 different molds and 2 mycotoxins were determined by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) in the blood of 40 controls and 40 mold-exposed patients. The IgG antibody levels against all 7 of the molds used, as well as the 2 mycotoxins, were significantly greater in patients than in controls. The IgM antibody levels were significantly different in patients for only 6 of 9 determinations. Regarding IgA determinations, antibodies were elevated significantly against all antigens tested, except Epicoccum. However, the differences in IgE levels in controls and mold-exposed patients were significant only for Aspergillus and satratoxin. These differences implied that, overall, the healthy control group was different from the mold-exposed patients for IgG, IgM, and IgA antibodies, but not for the IgE anti-mold antibody. Most patients with high levels of antibodies against various mold antigens also exhibited elevated antibodies against purified mycotoxins, indicating that the patients had been exposed to mold spores and mycotoxins. Detection of high levels (colony-forming units per cubic meter) of molds–which, in this study, strongly suggested that there existed a reservoir of spores in the building at the time of sampling–along with a significant elevation in IgG, IgM, or IgA antibodies against molds and mycotoxins, could be used in future epidemiologic investigations of fungal exposure. In addition to IgE, measurements of IgG, IgM, and IgA antibodies should be considered in mold-exposed individuals.

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