Imagine living in a house silently waging war on your health. This isn't a scene from a horror movie, but rather, the reality faced by a significant number of Americans and people in other contries living in damp and moisture-damaged houses. These seemingly innocuous residential hazards are linked to the onset of a range of ailments, from respiratory diseases such as asthma and allergies, to an array of non-respiratory symptoms including gastrointestinal and neurological issues, fatigue, ear infections, and skin rashes. Approximately 20% of asthma cases in the U.S., costing a staggering $3.5 billion annually, can be attributed to indoor dampness or mould exposure.
Around 47% of U.S. residential buildings reportedly struggle with dampness or mould, with almost a quarter of homes presenting some form of moisture or mould problem. Why is this concerning? Well, the culprit behind these health issues is mycotoxins, minuscule chemicals produced by certain fungi. These mycotoxins can deeply infiltrate our respiratory systems and even alter our gut microbiota composition. A compelling case presented in this paper exemplifies the profound impact of hidden mould infestation on a person's health. Prevention and swift resolution of mould damages, along with the active monitoring of mycotoxins, are crucial measures to minimize health risks in indoor environments.
The following blog is a summary of this fascinating paper.
A 53-year-old executive was exposed to a water-damaged home and his symptoms, including persistent headaches, tinnitus, exacerbated asthma, and more, gradually intensified despite treatment. The root cause was traced back to his move into a historic home, concealing multiple sites of water damage due to plumbing errors, which led to rampant mould growth.
Even after medical treatments and attempts at home remediation, the executive's symptoms persisted, indicating a lingering mould exposure. Despite his resistance to the notion of ongoing mould exposure, tests detected a continuous presence of urinary mycotoxins, suggesting that his dwelling was still contaminated. Further tests, including white blood cell count, vitamin D levels, natural killer (NK) cell function, and cholesterol levels, corroborated the suspicion. Cultures revealed alarming findings of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and Aspergillus fumigatus. A detailed treatment regimen was prescribed, including a dose of 500 mg three times daily and dietary adjustments to manage his falling cholesterol levels.
Eight weeks after treatment, the executive reported a remarkable improvement in his asthma symptoms, leading to reduced inhaler usage and an ability to manage low-intensity exercise. Other symptoms such as neuropathy, sleep disturbances, urinary frequency, and anxiety also showed minor improvements. Unexpectedly, he reported enhanced cognition. Despite lingering tinnitus and headaches, his overall condition improved, and he was instructed to continue his current plan and introduce antifungal therapy.
However, a house reassessment revealed contaminants in the HVAC system and various locations, underscoring the necessity for continued vigilance and intervention.
Addressing illnesses triggered by mould exposure can be a daunting task. The first line of action is to eradicate the exposure source, which in this case meant cleaning the contaminated HVAC system and affected areas of the house. Despite this, the executive's asthma and neuropathies only slightly improved, necessitating additional treatments.
The comprehensive treatment plan included dietary changes, supplements, and antifungal therapies designed to bolster the immune system, reduce histamine sensitivity, and support detoxification organs involved in mycotoxin excretion. The introduction of antifungal treatments, both intranasal and systemic, required careful monitoring to avoid side effects and increased mycotoxin production. The strategy also involved co-administration of a garlic supplement with itraconazole, a systemic antifungal, to ward off potential drug resistance.
Seven months after the first visit and five months into the antifungal therapy, the executive experienced significant daily improvements in his asthma symptoms. His other symptoms, such as headaches, neuropathy, and urinary frequency, also resolved. These positive outcomes were attributed to the long-term systemic and intranasal antifungals, which helped reestablish a healthy balance in his gut and sinonasal microbiome.
While the case underscores the potential of antifungal treatments for those exposed to damp or moisture-damaged buildings, it also urges caution. Managing building environments is crucial, as poorly implemented mould remediation measures can aggravate respiratory symptoms. This emphasizes the importance of professional intervention in such cases.
Despite the significant strides in the treatment of mould-related illnesses, numerous challenges remain. Limited research and ethical constraints prevent extensive human testing involving harmful substances such as mycotoxins. While certain mould-derived medications, like penicillin, have proven successful, others like citrinin were discontinued due to their toxicity.
The current research landscape lacks comprehensive studies on the health impacts of mycotoxins, especially their non-respiratory effects. The highlighted case supports the need for broader conversations that extend beyond respiratory effects to consider the impacts of different mould species and spores. With future studies poised to explore effective treatment interventions, the potential role of antifungal therapy for mould and mycotoxin exposure could become a revolutionary solution in our battle against mould-induced health issues.
Crista J. Case Report: Antifungal Agents in the Treatment of Asthma and Allergy After Water-Damaged Building Exposure. Altern Ther Health Med. 2023 Jul 21:AT8331. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 37478007.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/37478007/