Investigating Mold Exposure in People with Cystic Fibrosis
Mold can be found anywhere in daily life, both outside in nature and inside buildings. For many people, mold is harmless, or can cause mild allergic symptoms, like a runny nose or a cough. For people with high-risk medical conditions, mold is much more harmful. When someone has cystic fibrosis, mold exposure can be especially harmful. Mold can cause a whole host of infections and breathing problems.
Join us as we explore the vital connection between mold exposure, fungal infection, and cystic fibrosis.
What Is Cystic Fibrosis?
Cystic fibrosis (CF) is disease that is inherited through two defective copies of the CFTR gene from the parents. The main characteristic is abnormal thick and sticky mucus in the lungs and digestive system. Dense mucus traps bacteria, viruses, and fungi, which can cause an infection.
People with CF might also experience:
- Salty skin
- Shortness of breath
- Cough with mucus or blood
- Abnormal bumps inside the nose, also called nasal polyps
According to the CDC, over 30,000 people in the US have CF. However, CF has no cure, and only 50% of people with the condition live past 40 years old. Existing medications improve healthy lung function, treat infection, and promote normal mucus. Still, these treatments cannot get rid of the disease.
Health Risks from Toxic Mold
Aspergillus fumigatus is a mold commonly found in the air, the soil, and where it is humid. People are readily exposed to it, and most people will not become ill. For people with pre-existing conditions, such as asthma and cystic fibrosis, it is a different story entirely. People with a compromised immune system may also be at risk of A. fumigatus fungal infection.
Allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis, or ABPA is a reaction to A. fumigatus mold. Symptoms include:
- Shortness of breath
The symptoms of ABPA are very similar to the symptoms of cystic fibrosis. Bronchiectasis is one way that ABPA can manifest. Bronchiectasis occurs when the lung's airways widen due to thick and inflamed tissue. It is a severe complication of cystic fibrosis and A. fumigatus infection, so it is critical to treat and prevent mold infection to avoid worsening health.
Evaluation of mold exposure in cystic fibrosis patients
Because cystic fibrosis is a high-risk condition for infections such as ABPA, it is essential to focus on risk factors. Scientists from France were able to examine dust from the homes of patients with CF. They published their research in the Journal of Cystic Fibrosis in 2015.
In the following few sections, the specific details of the study will be explained.
Background of the Study
Starting in 2011, researchers in France dedicated time towards a project that would unveil new information about the risks of mold exposure in the home. Specifically, the scientists wanted to learn more about ABPA in people with CF.
Materials and Methods
People with cystic fibrosis may be at a higher risk of ABPA than others with healthy respiratory function. The researchers asked patients with cystic fibrosis to participate in the study. A total of 16 people with cystic fibrosis consented to participate in the study.
The scientists used a few different technologies to perform the study. The researchers gave each participant a unique device, called an electrostatic dust collector or EDC. The researchers instructed the patients to place the EDC inside the home to obtain air quality samples.
After 10 weeks, the researchers picked up the EDC from each patient and brought it back to the lab for further investigation. Using the samples, the researchers conducted a few tests to count how much mold was present in each home. The scientists specifically isolated types of molds that usually cause infection, such as Aspergillus fumigatus.
The researchers also asked each patient to undergo a few health tests to see if they had ABPA or any other risks for getting a mold infection.
Overall, 4 of the 16 patients were diagnosed with ABPA. There were 7 patients that did not physically appear sick during the study; however, their health tests revealed a prior exposure to mold. This can make them more likely to react to mold in the future and potentially get sick. There were also 2 patients that had a prior diagnosis of ABPA and were taking medical treatments for it.
Using the information from the air samples, the scientists were able to show that the patients with ABPA had the highest levels of mold in their homes.
Most cases of ABPA occur in people with either asthma or cystic fibrosis. So it is important to identify and protect against factors that cause infection. This French research study is unique because there is a significant gap in knowledge about ABPA in people with cystic fibrosis, as well as the effect of indoor contaminants, such as mold.
However, the study revealed some significant findings. The researchers proved that there may be a link between indoor mold exposure and ABPA in people with cystic fibrosis. Specifically, the presence of Aspergillus fumigatus type mold may be a risk factor for ABPA in this population.
While the study had many strengths, there were also some limitations, including:
- Relatively small sample size of 16 patients
- Use of ABPA diagnostic criteria that differ from current Cystic Fibrosis Foundation guidelines
Mold Prevention and Management for Cystic Fibrosis Patients
ABPA is a major infection that doctors are on high alert for in patients with cystic fibrosis. The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation recommends yearly screenings to check for any signs of infection. Elevated antibody levels may be a sign of ABPA. Doctors may also check for symptoms or test for an immune response to Aspergillus.
Although there are no official medical guidelines on preventing fungal infection in people with cystic fibrosis, the CDC has a few recommendations to prevent aspergillus infection:
- Reducing or avoiding dust exposure
- Wearing a mask
- Avoiding high-exposure activity, such as yard work
- Limiting contact with soil or dust
- Quickly cleaning any skin injuries
If there is mold growing in the home, it may be difficult to simply avoid. In this case, scheduling a mold inspection to prevent future infection might be helpful.
Importance of using expert mold remediation services
If you have mold in your home, you should trust the expertise of a mold remediation professional to protect your health from toxic exposures. At Mold KO, our team is trained and certified to deploy the appropriate protocols to eliminate hazardous mold.
Our mold removal experts specialize in everything from mold inspection to mold treatment. With your health in mind, we ensure that your home is restored to pristine condition.
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Research has shown that there might be a link between mold growth in the home and fungal infection in people with cystic fibrosis. For CF patients, avoiding exposure to contaminants such as mold is critical to prevent infection.
If you have observed signs of mold in your home, contact Mold KO, the mold removal experts. Please reach out to us at 888-253-4551.