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Search Health Information    Indoor Mold May Trigger Severe Asthma Attacks
 Asthma Center Feature Story

Indoor Mold May Trigger Severe Asthma Attacks
Certain genes put some people at greater risk

Indoor Mold May Trigger Severe Asthma Attacks (HealthDay News) -- For asthma sufferers with a particular genetic makeup, household mold can trigger an attack that puts them in the hospital.

Using data from the Childhood Asthma Management Program, a study that included children ages 5 to 12 with mild to moderate persistent asthma, researchers were able to shed light on the issue.

The children's homes were measured for mold, using a calculation based on the number of mold colonies per gram of household dust. Levels greater than 25,000 mold colonies per gram of dust are considered high.

In addition, genetic tests were conducted on blood samples taken from the children.

Children with certain variants of the chitinase gene CHIT1 who were exposed to high levels of mold were at increased risk for severe asthma attacks, according to the findings published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

"We found that the interaction between environmental mold exposure and certain variants of chitinase genes were positively associated with severe asthma exacerbations requiring hospitalization," lead researcher Ann Wu, an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute, said in a journal news release.

This finding suggests that chitinases may offer a target for new types of asthma treatments, the researchers said.

Chitinases, which break down a component in fungi called chitin, are released during allergic inflammation. It was already known that people with asthma have a higher expression of certain chitinase variants, the researchers noted.

To prevent and control mold in the home, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency suggests that you:

  • Take quick action if there's a water leak or spill in the home. In most cases, mold will not grow if wet or damp materials or areas can be dried in 24 to 48 hours.
  • Clean roof gutters regularly and keep them in good repair. Make sure the ground slopes away from the foundation so that water flows away from the building.
  • Keep the humidity low inside the house. The ideal range is between 30 and 50 percent relative humidity. Indoor humidity meters are available at many hardware stores.
  • Reduce humidity in the home by using air conditioners or dehumidifiers, running a bathroom fan or opening a window when showering, and using exhaust fans or opening windows when cooking, washing dishes or running the dishwasher.
  • Renters should report all plumbing leaks and moisture problems immediately to the building owner, manager or superintendent. If they fail to correct persistent water problems, consider contacting local, state or federal health or housing officials.

On the Web

To learn more about treating and controlling asthma, visit the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

SOURCES: HealthDay News; American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, news release, June 24, 2010; U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (www.epa.gov)

Author: Robert Preidt

Publication Date: July 31, 2011


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