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Home Characteristics as Predictors of Bacterial and Fungal Microbial Biomarkers in House Dust

BACKGROUND: Measurement of fungal and bacterial biomarkers can be costly, but it is not clear whether home characteristics can be used as a proxy of these markers, particularly if the purpose is to differentiate specific classes of biologic exposures that have similar sources but may have different effects on allergic disease risk. OBJECTIVE: We evaluated home characteristics as predictors of multiple microbial biomarkers, with a focus on common and unique determinants, and with attention to the extent of their explanatory ability. METHODS: In 376 Boston-area homes enrolled in a cohort study of home exposures and childhood asthma, we assessed the relationship between home characteristics gathered by questionnaire and measured gram negative bacteria (GNB) (endotoxin and C10:0, C12:0, and C14:0 3-hydroxy fatty acids (3-OHFAs)), gram positive bacteria (GPB) (N-acetyl muramic acid) and fungal biomarkers (ergosterol and (1?6) branched, (1?3) â-D glucans) in bed and family room dust. RESULTS: Home characteristics related to dampness were significant predictors of all microbial exposures; water damage or visible mold/mildew in the home was associated with a 20% to 66% increase in GNB levels. Report of cleaning the bedroom at least once a week was associated with reduced GNB, GPB and fungi. Presence of dogs or cats predicted increases in home bacteria or fungi. The proportion of variance in microbial biomarkers explained by home characteristics ranged from 4.2 to 19.0%. CONCLUSIONS: Despite their associations with multiple microbial flora, home characteristics only partially explain the variability in microbial biomarker levels and cannot substitute for specific microbial measurements in studies concerned with distinguishing effects of specific classes of microbes. Environmental Health Perspectives. 2011;119(2):189-95.

Author: Sordillo JE, Alwis UK, Hoffman E, Gold DR, Milton DK

Published: 01/02/2011

Publication Type: Journal article

Publisher: Environmental Health Perspectives