Nearly 50 percent of cystic fibrosis (CF) patients have been found to be affected by the Aspergilus fungus — a common mold — a recent study by a medical student from Manchester University in the United Kingdom reported. The student’s research seeks to highlight the dangers of mold, especially the symptoms, and offers doctors ways to improve their diagnosis of mold exposure and treatments for patients with CF.
Mold can enter a home through open doorways, windows, vents, and heating and air conditioning units and generally grows in places with plenty of moisture, such as basements, leaking roofs, pipes, or windows. These tiny fungi thrive at normal indoor living temperatures which can range anywhere from around 40 degrees F to 100 degrees F.
Researchers Jo Armstead analyzed the data from 30 countries and discovered there are over 75,000 people who have both CF and suffer from Aspergillus fungal infection; more than half of the patients are over 18 years old.
“The life expectancy of people with CF has been increasing, but aspergillosis has a major negative impact on many,” said Professor Denning who worked with Armstead. “By painstakingly crunching numbers, Jo has helped us better understand the scale of the challenge which will lead to better diagnostics and treatment strategies.”
“It’s up to the property owner or home owner to constantly stay vigilant to ensure that moisture levels and humidity levels in their homes are not elevated to avoid mold growth. External gutters and downspouts should be checked regularly to ensure they’re working properly – problems here can cause moisture issues and should be repaired promptly. All molds are allergenic, some are toxigenic, and some are pathogenic. By controlling the moisture in your home, you rob molds of their fuel and thus prevent them from growing out of control” said Mike Mulieri, Chief Operations Officer at Mold Gone.
An estimated 10 to 20 percent of the world’s population is allergic to mold, and this allergy, combined with the 30,000 CF patients in the U.S., could hamper life expectancy for many. The new study states the importance of CF patients avoiding exposure to high levels of Aspergillus.
“Aspergillus may cause several pulmonary manifestations in CF patients. Allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis is recognized as a severe complication and characterized by an accelerated decline in lung function,” said researchers at Statens Serum Institut’s Department of Microbiological Surveillance and Research in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Treating Aspergillosis and other types of mold infections is a costly endeavor; the national cost of mold related asthma is around $3.5 billion annually. Out of 21.8 million people who have asthma in the U.S., around 4.6 million of these cases were linked to dampness or mold exposure in their home.
There is no reliable and effective treatment or cure for Aspergillosis, which at the moment involves anti-fungal therapy or oral steroids, both are not very effective and leave patients suffering from chronic symptoms. Around 93 percent of chronic sinus infections have been attributed to mold, for example.
For now, Armstead’s research will help other researchers and scientists prepare for seeking a better treatment or preventative method against Aspergillus for those who already suffer from CF.
“It has been really great to be involved in the first project of its kind ever done, with dramatic results and real opportunities for better health in young CF sufferers,” said Armstead.