Actinobacteria in indoor environments: exposures and respiratory health effects

Front Biosci (Schol Ed). 2011 Jun 1;3:1273-84. doi: 10.2741/225.


Actinobacteria are a large group of Gram-positive bacteria common in the environment, especially in the soil. They are morphologically diverse and extremely versatile in their metabolic activities. They produce tens of thousands of secondary metabolites with different biological activities. Exposure to actinobacteria in indoor environments is probably continuous, since they are both common environmental bacteria and human normal flora. However, the occurrence of some species of spore-forming filamentous actinomycetes has been associated with abnormal and health-hazardous situations, such as moisture damage of the building. The measured concentrations of actinobacteria indoors are low. Higher concentrations have been reported during the remediation work of moisture damaged buildings and in agricultural environments. Exposure to high concentrations of actinobacteria can cause allergic alveolitis. Other respiratory disorders have been reported, too and although the measured concentrations are low, the indoor exposure is always a mixture of many different agents, which may have synergistic effects. In vitro and in vivo studies have shown that actinobacteria are very immunoactive and hence, potential causative agents for respiratory and other disorders.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Actinobacteria / classification
  • Actinobacteria / genetics
  • Actinobacteria / pathogenicity*
  • Air Microbiology*
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Inhalation Exposure*
  • Interleukin-6 / metabolism
  • Nitric Oxide / metabolism
  • Respiratory Hypersensitivity / microbiology*
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / microbiology*
  • Spores, Bacterial / pathogenicity
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / metabolism


  • Cytokines
  • Interleukin-6
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • Nitric Oxide