July 30, 2012
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Specific mold exposure during infancy increased childhood asthma risk

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Children exposed to three specific species of molds may be more likely to develop asthma during childhood, according to recent study results.

In a substudy of the Cincinnati Childhood Allergy and Air Pollution Study, researchers collected dust samples from 289 homes where infants (mean age, 8 months) lived and analyzed them for levels of molds comprising the Environmental Relative Moldiness Index (ERMI), as well as endotoxin and various allergens. Incidence of asthma among the children was recorded at 7 years of age according to lung function and reported symptoms. The Holm method, cluster analysis and forward stepwise logistic regression were used to measure the predictive value for asthma among specific mold species, with a random forest model applied to compare the results.

At age 7 years, 24% of children in the cohort had asthma. Increased asthma risk was associated with a high ERMI value at the home during infancy (adjusted RR=1.8; 95% CI, 1.5-2.2 for a 10-unit ERMI increase), as well as parental asthma (adjusted RR=1.7; 95% CI, 1.3-2.1), upper respiratory tract infection at 1 year of age (adjusted RR=2.2; 95% CI, 1.6-3.1) and positive skin prick test responses to aeroallergens and mold at age 7 years (adjusted RR=1.5; 95% CI, 1.2-2.0), among other factors.

Among the 36 molds outlined in the ERMI, three specific group 1 species, Aspergillus ochraceus, Aspergillus unguis and Penicillium variabile, were associated with increased asthma risk (adjusted RR=2.2; 95% CI, 1.8-2.7 for a summation of levels of the three species). Group 2 mold species were not significantly associated with asthma.

“This study is unique because we have identified specific molds associated with asthma development in a prospective study, arriving at a consensus from different models,” the researchers wrote. “Expecting parents with a family history of asthma might find it prudent to correct any water and mold problems in the home. Mold assessment using the ERMI might help in identifying the high-risk homes.”

Disclosure: See the study for a full list of relevant disclosures.