Example Report

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REPORT TO THE HEALTH AUTHORITY

ON AN

AEROBIOLOGY SURVEY

OF THE

SYDNEY BASIN


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Background and Aims

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A diverse range of airborne fungi exist in the Sydney basin region of New South Wales, many of which present significant risk to human health. Sensitivity to allergens released by the genera Alternaria, for instance, has been recognized as a risk factor for the development and persistence of asthma in children and young adults (Bush & Prochnau, 2004)...

Proper diagnosis of fungal allergy is an important measure in the management of asthma and respiratory arrest (Horner et al., 1995). ... For effective assessment and management of factors influencing health risks in this region's population, it is therefore important that the regional distribution of airborne fungi be recognised and monitored, and appropriate steps taken to minimise risk factors associated with various genera.

This report documents the results of an Aerobiological survey conducted throughout the Sydney basin, aiming to determine the relative prevalence of three genera of fungi found in the region Alternaria, Aspergillus and Rhizopus. By identifying potential health risk factors posed by these fungi, this report aims to assist in the development of strategies for their management and treatment of associated effects.

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Aerobiology Survey Method

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Aerobiology samples were collected using agar settlement plates during the month of March, 2008, with an exposure time of 10 minutes, documenting the general surrounding vegetation. A total of 577 samples were taken from across the Sydney basin, providing an extensive regional survey. Fungi present in the agar cultures were identified and compiled in a collective database...

The resulting data were analysed using the arcGIS program to provide the relative density of fungi genera across various regions of the Sydney basin. These regions were distinguished based on their distinct climatic and vegetative characteristics, including the prevalence of vegetation (Figure 1).

Distribution of Fungi Found

The highest relative density of all fungi genera was found in the Blue Mountains region (Figure 2). A somewhat concentric pattern of airborne fungal density was thereafter observed, with the South-western and South-eastern regions having the next highest relative density, followed by the North-western, North-eastern, Central and Central Coast regions. Illawarra and Coastal Sydney reported the lowest relative fungal density.

The relative densities of individual Rhizopus and Alternaria genera showed similar distrubution, with Rhizopus most prevalent in the Blue Mountains region (Figure 3), and becoming less so towards the coast. Alternaria was similarly most apparent in the Blue Mountains region (Figure 4), ... .

Aspergillius, on the other hand, demonstrated a contrasting almost inverse pattern of dispersion (Figure 5). Its relative density was highest in the Central Sydney region, less so in the Blue Mountains, ... .

Figure 1 Regions of the Sydney Basin

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Figure 2 Average Fungi Counted in Each Region

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Figure 3 Average Rhizopus Counted in Each Region

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Figure 4 Average Alternaria Counted in Each Region

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Figure 5 Average Aspergillius Counted in Each Region

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Discussion and Recommendations

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The results demonstrate a correlation between the relative density of airborne fungi in individual regions of the Sydney basin and environmental factors specific to that region. This is consistent with...

The results demonstrate a correlation between the relative density of airborne fungi in individual regions of the Sydney basin and environmental factors specific to that region. This is consistent with the existing literature (Nilsson, 1990; Horner et al., 1995; Bush & Prochnau, 2004; Wu et al., 2007), which shows that airborne fungal spores depend on environmental factors such as water, nutrient availability, temperature and wind. Furthermore, Wu et al. (2007) have demonstrated that levels of ambient fungi are also proportional to relative humidity, and inversely proportional to levels of ozone and other air pollutants. It is not surprising, therefore, to find that the relative density of fungi in the Sydney basin is highest in the peripheral, inland regions such as the Blue Mountains, where there are high densities of vegetation (Figure 6), urban pollution is at a minimum (Leslie & Speer, 2004), humidity is high and coastal wind is reduced (Sahukar et al., 2003).

Specifically, both Alternaria and Rhizopus genera are especially associated with organic matter, and are accordingly found in higher concentrations where ...

There is widespread agreement of an association between exposure to airborne fungi and allergic disease (Bush & Portnoy, 2001; De-Wei & Kendrick, 1995; Levetin, 1995; O'Hollaren et al. 1991; Weber, 2000), and sensitivity to a variety of fungi is known to be a factor in allergic rhinitis and asthma, specifically among children and young adults. Bass & Morgan (1997) have provided strong circumstantial evidence that sensitivity to Alternaria, Rhizopus or Aspergillus, in particular, is a significant risk factor for delayed asthmatic responses and sudden, severe episodes of asthma. ... The management of asthma and respiratory arrest accordingly requires that physicians and medical staff are aware of the geographic distribution of allergenic fungi (Horner et al., 1995; Weber, 2000) and the vegetative and climatic conditions in which they live.

Where specific allergies are identified, measures can be taken to minimise the risk of allergenic response, by targeting the causative airborne fungi and removing contaminated materials (Bush & Portnoy, 2001; Araujo et al., 2008). For instance, in risk areas, ...

The fungal spores analysed in this report were collected entirely during March, 2008. Most fungi, however, commonly display a seasonal spore release pattern (Horner et al., 1995), and this seasonality should be taken into account in future studies. A further limitation to this study may be highlighted in the settling plate collection method, which preferentially collects heavier spores such as those of Aspergillus (B.Green pers. comm., 2008). Future studies should consider alternative collection methods, such as Burkard volumetric traps. This report on an Aerobiological survey conducted throughout the Sydney basin documents the relative prevalence of three genera of airborne fungi found in the region Alternaria, Aspergillus and Rhizopus and suggests possible means by which this information can assist in the treatment and management of allergy-related health effects.

Reproduced from Sahukar et al. (2003)

Figure 6 Vegetation Density in the Sydney Basin Bioregion.

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References

  1. Araujo, R., Cabral, J.P., and Rodrigues, A.G. (2008) Air filtration systems and restrictive access conditions improve indoor air quality in clinical units: Penicillium as a general indicator of hospital indoor fungal levels. American Journal of Infection Control, 36(2), 129-134.
  2. Bass, D. and Morgan, G. (1997) A three year (1993-1995) calendar of pollen and Alternaria mould in the atmosphere of south western Sydney. Grana, 36(5), 293-300.
  3. Bush, R.K. and Prochnau, J.J. (2004) Alternaria-induced asthma. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 113(2), 227-234.
  4. Bush, R.K., and Portnoy, J.M. (2001) The role and abatement of fungal allergens in allergic diseases. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 107(3), 430-440.
  5. De-Wei, L. and Kendrick, B. (1995) Indoor aeromycota in relation to residential characteristics and allergenic symptoms. Mycopathologica, 131(1), 149-157.
  6. Green, B. (2008) Personal communication.
  7. ...
  8. Wu, Y.H., Chan, C.C., Rao, C.Y., Lee, C.T., Hsu, H.H., Chiu, Y.H. and Chao, H.J. (2007) Characteristics, determinants, and spatial variations of ambient fungal levels in the subtropical Taipei metropolis. Atmospheric Environment, 41(12), 2500-2509
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