Annual distribution of allergenic fungal spores in atmospheric particulate matter in the eastern mediterranean; a comparative study between ergosterol and quantitative PCR analysis
1Department of Environmental Sciences, Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, 76100, Israel
2Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering, Yale University, Mason Laboratory, 9 Hillhouse Avenue, New Haven, CT, 06520-8286, USA
3Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology, The R.H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Rehovot 76100, Israel
Abstract. Airborne fungal spores are an important fraction of atmospheric particulate matter and are major causative agents of allergenic and infectious diseases. Predicting the variability and species of allergy-causing fungal spores requires detailed and reliable methods for identification and quantification. There are diverse methods for their detection in the atmosphere and in the indoor environments; yet, it is important to optimize suitable methods for characterization of fungal spores in atmospheric samples. In this study we sampled and characterized total and specific airborne fungal spores from PM10 samples collected in Rohovot, Israel over an entire year. The total fungal spore concentrations vary throughout the year although the species variability was nearly the same. Seasonal equivalent spore concentrations analyzed by real-time quantitative-PCR-based methods were fall > winter > spring > summer. Reported concentrations based on ergosterol analysis for the same samples were and fall > spring > winter > summer. Correlation between the two analytical methods was found only for the spring season. These poor associations may be due to the per-spore ergosterol variations that arise from both varying production rates, as well as molecular degradation of ergosterol. While conversion of genome copies to spore concentration is not yet straightforward, the potential for improving this conversion and the ability of qPCR to identify groups of fungi or specific species makes this method preferable for environmental spore quantification. Identifying tools for establishing the relation between the presence of species and the actual ability to induce allergies is still needed in order to predict the effect on human health.