Fungal sensitization was previously reported as common among asthmatic children living in Hurricane Sandy (HS) damaged homes in NYC. We hypothesized that HS-damaged NYC homes would have different fungal species profiles compared with non-impacted homes and domestic fungal concentrations would be associated with increased asthma symptoms, airflow obstruction and airway inflammation among asthmatic children.
Participants, including a targeted sample of asthmatic children, living in HS-damaged NYC homes in Brooklyn and Queens, were recruited and compared with data from a prior study of asthmatic and non-asthmatic children. Fungi in bedroom floor dust samples were measured by quantitative PCR (qPCR) using a panel of 36 fungi and by high-throughput DNA sequencing (NGS).
By qPCR, Aspergillus penicillioides, Aspergillus niger, and Cladsporium cladosporioides were more abundant among HS-damaged (n=99) than non-damaged (n=203) homes (all P<0.001) after adjusting for season, building type and presence of carpet. Analysis of the NGS data showed no overall difference in number of observed species (P=0.75), but fungal diversity (Shannon) was significantly lower among HS-damaged vs. non-damaged homes (P=0.011). There were no differences in asthma symptom frequency, lung function or FeNO between asthmatic children in HS-damaged (n=58) vs. non-damaged homes (n=68) [all P>0.05] and no consistent associations with A. penicillioides, A. niger, or C. cladosporioides.
Several allergenic fungal species were prevalent and fungal diversity lower among HS-damaged vs. non-damaged NYC homes. Among a population of relatively mild asthmatic children, there was no consistent association between these fungal exposures and asthma outcomes; however, caution must be taken in generalizing these findings.