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Medicine and health science fair project:
Investigate why the common household mold causes asthma




Science Fair Project Information
Title: Investigate why the common household mold known as Alternaria Alternata causes asthma
Subject: Medicine & Health
Grade level: High School - Grades 10-12
Academic Level: Advanced
Project Type: Experimental
Cost: High
Awards: 1st place, 15-16 age group category, Google Science Fair 2011
Affiliation: Google Science Fair
Year: 2011
Materials, Equipment and Techniques: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1QzZcO6
Description: This project will discover the active enzymes present in Alternaria Alternata because these enzymes are responsible for its inflammatory properties and then will investigate what cellular signalling pathways these enzymes activate because errors in cellular information processing are responsible for many diseases such as cancer and asthma.
Link: http://sites.google.com/site/airborneattack2011/home
Short Background

Mold and Asthma

Alternaria is a genus of ascomycete fungi. Alternaria species are known as major plant pathogens. They are also common allergens in humans, growing indoors and causing hay fever or hypersensitivity reactions that sometimes lead to asthma. They readily cause opportunistic infections in immunocompromised people such as AIDS patients.

Alternaria alternata has been recorded causing leaf spot and other diseases on over 380 host species. It is opportunistic pathogen on numerous hosts causing leaf spots, rots and blights on many plant parts. It can also cause upper respiratory tract infections and asthma in people with sensitivity.

Health problems associated with high levels of airborne mold spores include allergic reactions, asthma episodes, irritations of the eye, nose and throat, sinus congestion, and other respiratory problems. For example, residents of homes with mold are at an elevated risk for both respiratory infections and bronchitis. When mold spores are inhaled by an immunocompromised individual, some mold spores may begin to grow on living tissue, attaching to cells along the respiratory tract and causing further problems. Generally, when this occurs, the illness is an epiphenomenon and not the primary pathology. Also, mold may produce mycotoxins, either before or after exposure to humans, potentially causing toxicity.

The most common form of hypersensitivity is caused by the direct exposure to inhaled mold spores that can be dead or alive or hyphal fragments which can lead to allergic asthma or allergic rhinitis. The most common effects are rhinorrhea (runny nose), watery eyes, coughing and asthma attacks. Another form of hypersensitivity is hypersensitivity pneumonitis. Exposure can occur at home, at work or in other settings. It is predicted that about 5% of people have some airway symptoms due to allergic reactions to molds in their lifetimes.Hypersensitivity may also be a reaction toward an established fungal infection in allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis.

Adverse respiratory health effects are associated with occupancy in buildings with moisture and mold damage. Asthma can be aggravated or even induced with exposure to certain fungal species and some fungi cause skin infections such as athletes foot or ring worm.

Infants may develop respiratory symptoms as a result of exposure to a specific type of fungal mold, called Penicillium. Infants will begin to show respiratory problems if they have a persistent cough and/or wheeze. The number of days that a child will suffer from respiratory symptoms during their first year of life increases by an average of 20% every time the level of Pencicillium increases. The levels are deemed no mold to low level, from low to intermediate, from intermediate to high.

Mold exposures have a variety of health effects depending on the person, some people are more sensitive to mold than others. Exposure to mold can cause a number of health issues such as; throat irritation, nasal stuffiness, eye irritation, cough and wheezing, as well as skin irritation in some cases. People at higher risk for mold allergies are people with chronic lung illnesses, which will result in more severe reactions when exposed to mold. There has been sufficient evidence that damp indoor environments are correlated with upper respiratory tract symptoms such as; coughing, and wheezing in people with asthma.

Cell signaling is part of a complex system of communication that governs basic cellular activities and coordinates cell actions. The ability of cells to perceive and correctly respond to their microenvironment is the basis of development, tissue repair, and immunity as well as normal tissue homeostasis. Errors in cellular information processing are responsible for diseases such as cancer, autoimmunity, and diabetes. By understanding cell signaling, diseases may be treated effectively and, theoretically, artificial tissues may be created.

See also:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mold_health_issues
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mold_growth,_assessment,_and_remediation
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mold_health_issues

Source: Wikipedia (All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License and Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License.)

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