(1-->3)-Beta-D-glucan are non-allergenic structural cell wall components of most fungi that have been suggested to play a causal role in the development of respiratory symptoms associated with indoor fungal exposure. This review describes the currently available epidemiological literature on health effects of (1-->3)-beta-D-glucan, focusing on atopy, airway inflammation and symptoms, asthma, and lung function. In addition to population studies, studies in human volunteers experimentally exposed to (1-->3)-beta-D-glucan are described as well as relevant animal studies. Furthermore, the review discusses exposure assessment methods, the potential for exposure control and it concludes with identifying research needs. The observational and experimental studies reviewed suggested some association between (1-->3)-beta-D-glucan exposure, airway inflammation and symptoms, however, results were mixed and specific symptoms and potential underlying inflammatory mechanisms associated with exposure could not be identified. Large observational studies using well validated exposure assessment methods are needed to further our knowledge regarding the potential health effects of indoor (1-->3)-beta-D-glucan exposure.
Practical implications: The currently available epidemiological data do not permit conclusions to be drawn regarding the presence (or absence) of an association between environmental (1-->3)-beta-D-glucan exposure and specific adverse health effects, nor is it clear from the currently available evidence which specific immunological mechanisms underlie the presumed health effects. More and larger observational studies are needed to asses whether (1-->3)-beta-D-glucan exposure plays a significant role in respiratory morbidity. In addition, existing methods to assess environmental (1-->3)-beta-D-glucan exposure require validation and further development before they can be used routinely in large scale epidemiological studies.