Respiratory health in children, and indoor exposure to (1,3)-β-D-glucan, EPS mould components and endotoxin

Eur Respir J. 2011 May;37(5):1050-9. doi: 10.1183/09031936.00091210. Epub 2010 Sep 3.


For a long time, exposure to mould and dampness-derived microbial components was considered a risk factor for the development of respiratory diseases and symptoms. Some recent studies suggested that early childhood exposure to mould components, such as (1,3)-β-D-glucan and extracellular polysaccharides (EPSs), may protect children from developing allergy. We investigated the association of exposure to (1,3)-β-D-glucan, EPS and endotoxin with asthma and allergies in 6-yr-old children. This investigation was the follow-up to a nested case-control study among three European birth cohorts. Children from two ongoing birth cohort studies performed in Germany (n = 358) and one in the Netherlands (n = 338) were selected. Levels of (1,3)-β-D-glucan, EPS and endotoxin were measured in settled house dust sampled from children's mattresses and living-room floors when the children were, on average, 5 yrs of age. At the age of 6 yrs, health outcome information was available for 678 children. In the two German subsets, domestic EPS and endotoxin exposure from children's mattresses were significantly negatively associated with physician-diagnosed asthma (OR per interquartile range increase 0.60 (95% CI 0.39-0.92) and 0.55 (95% CI 0.31-0.97), respectively). In addition, EPS exposure was inversely related to physician-diagnosed allergic rhinitis (OR 0.50, 95% CI 0.31-0.81). For the Dutch population, no associations were observed between exposure to microbial agents and respiratory health outcomes. We found inverse associations between domestic exposure to EPS and endotoxin from children's mattresses, and doctor-diagnosed asthma and rhinitis in German, but not in Dutch, school children. The reasons for the differences between countries are not clear.

MeSH terms

  • Asthma / epidemiology*
  • Asthma / microbiology
  • Asthma / prevention & control
  • Beds / microbiology
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Dust / immunology
  • Female
  • Floors and Floorcoverings
  • Fungi / immunology*
  • Germany
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Netherlands / epidemiology
  • Proteoglycans
  • Rhinitis, Allergic, Perennial / epidemiology*
  • Rhinitis, Allergic, Perennial / microbiology
  • Rhinitis, Allergic, Perennial / prevention & control
  • Toxins, Biological / immunology*
  • beta-Glucans / immunology*


  • Dust
  • Proteoglycans
  • Toxins, Biological
  • beta-Glucans
  • polysaccharide-K