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Detection of Airborne Stachybotrys chartarum Macrocyclic Trichothecene Mycotoxins on Particulates Smaller than Conidia

American Society for Microbiology
Publication Date
  • Public Health Microbiology
  • Biology


Highly respirable particles (diameter, <1 μm) constitute the majority of particulate matter found in indoor air. It is hypothesized that these particles serve as carriers for toxic compounds, specifically the compounds produced by molds in water-damaged buildings. The presence of airborne Stachybotrys chartarum trichothecene mycotoxins on particles smaller than conidia (e.g., fungal fragments) was therefore investigated. Cellulose ceiling tiles with confluent Stachybotrys growth were placed in gas-drying containers through which filtered air was passed. Exiting particulates were collected by using a series of polycarbonate membrane filters with decreasing pore sizes. Scanning electron microscopy was employed to determine the presence of conidia on the filters. A competitive enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) specific for macrocyclic trichothecenes was used to analyze filter extracts. Cross-reactivity to various mycotoxins was examined to confirm the specificity. Statistically significant (P < 0.05) ELISA binding was observed primarily for macrocyclic trichothecenes at concentrations of 50 and 5 ng/ml and 500 pg/ml (58.4 to 83.5% inhibition). Of the remaining toxins tested, only verrucarol and diacetylverrucarol (nonmacrocyclic trichothecenes) demonstrated significant binding (18.2 and 51.7% inhibition, respectively) and then only at high concentrations. The results showed that extracts from conidium-free filters demonstrated statistically significant (P < 0.05) antibody binding that increased with sampling time (38.4 to 71.9% inhibition, representing a range of 0.5 to 4.0 ng/ml). High-performance liquid chromatography analysis suggested the presence of satratoxin H in conidium-free filter extracts. These data show that S. chartarum trichothecene mycotoxins can become airborne in association with intact conidia or smaller particles. These findings may have important implications for indoor air quality assessment.

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