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Occup Environ Med 63:580-590 doi:10.1136/oem.2005.024448
  • Original article

Temporal associations between daily counts of fungal spores and asthma exacerbations

  1. R W Atkinson1,
  2. D P Strachan1,
  3. H R Anderson1,
  4. S Hajat2,
  5. J Emberlin3
  1. 1Division of Community Health Sciences, St George’s, University of London, London, UK
  2. 2Public and Environmental Health Research Unit (PEHRU), Department of Public Health and Policy, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK
  3. 3National Pollen and Aerobiology Research Unit, Institute of Health, University College, Worcester, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
 DrR W Atkinson
 Division of Community Health Sciences, St George’s, University of London, London SW17 0RE, UK; atkinson{at}sgul.ac.uk
  • Accepted 17 March 2006
  • Published Online First 21 March 2006

Abstract

Background: Outdoor aeroallergens are one of a number of environmental factors thought to precipitate asthma exacerbations.

Aims: To investigate the short term associations between daily fungal spore concentrations and indicators of daily asthma exacerbations in a large urban population.

Methods: Daily counts of visits for asthma to family physicians and hospital accident and emergency (A&E) departments and emergency hospital admissions in London 1992–93 were compiled. Daily concentrations of fungal spores (30 species), daily average temperature, humidity, and concentrations of pollen and outdoor air pollution were also compiled. The analysis was restricted to the period when fungal spores were most prevalent (June to mid October). Non-parametric regression time series methods were used to assess associations controlling for seasonality, day of week, and meteorological factors. The sensitivity of the findings to the inclusion of pollen and air pollution into the models was also assessed.

Results: In children aged 0–14 years the relative risks for increases in the number of A&E visits and hospital admissions associated with changes in fungal spore concentrations from the lower to upper quartiles were 1.06 (95% CI 0.94 to 1.18) and 1.07 (0.97 to 1.19) respectively. The addition of pollen or air pollutants had little impact on the observed associations. A number of individual spore taxa, in particular Alternaria, Epicoccum, Agrocybe, Mildews, and both coloured and colourless Basidiospores and Ascospores, were associated with increases in the number of emergency visits and hospital admissions for asthma, although the precision of these estimates were low. No evidence was found for associations in adults.

Conclusions: Fungal spore concentrations may provoke or exacerbate asthma attacks in children resulting in visits to A&E departments and emergency hospital admissions. These findings were unlikely to be due to confounding by other environmental factors. The associations were comparable to those observed for ambient air pollution from similarly designed studies.

Footnotes

  • Published Online First 21 March 2006

  • Competing interests: none declared.