A longitudinal study of sick building syndrome among pupils in relation to microbial components in dust in schools in China

Sci Total Environ. 2011 Nov 15;409(24):5253-9. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2011.08.059. Epub 2011 Sep 23.


There are few longitudinal studies on sick building syndrome (SBS), which include ocular, nasal, throat, and dermal symptoms, headache, and fatigue. We studied the associations between selected microbial components, fungal DNA, furry pet allergens, and incidence and remission of SBS symptoms in schools in Taiyuan, China. The study was based on a two-year prospective analysis in pupils (N=1143) in a random sample of schools in China. Settled dust in the classrooms was collected by vacuum cleaning and analyzed for lipopolysaccharide (LPS), muramic acid (MuA), and ergosterol (Erg). Airborne dust was collected in Petri dishes and analyzed for cat and dog allergens and fungal DNA. The relationship between the concentration of allergens and microbial compounds and new onset of SBS was analyzed by multi-level logistic regression. The prevalence of mucosal and general symptoms was 33% and 28%, respectively, at baseline, and increased during follow-up. At baseline, 27% reported at least one symptom that improved when away from school (school-related symptoms). New onset of mucosal symptoms was negatively associated with concentration of MuA, total LPS, and shorter lengths of 3-hydroxy fatty acids from LPS, C14, C16, and C18. Onset of general symptoms was negatively associated with C18 LPS. Onset of school-related symptoms was negatively associated with C16 LPS, but positively associated with total fungal DNA. In general, bacterial compounds (LPS and MuA) seem to protect against the development of mucosal and general symptoms, but fungal exposure measured as fungal DNA could increase the incidence of school-related symptoms.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Allergens / adverse effects
  • Allergens / analysis
  • Asthma / epidemiology*
  • Asthma / immunology
  • Child
  • China / epidemiology
  • DNA, Fungal / analysis
  • Dust / analysis
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Ergosterol / adverse effects
  • Ergosterol / analysis
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Lipopolysaccharides / adverse effects
  • Lipopolysaccharides / analysis
  • Lipopolysaccharides / chemistry
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Muramic Acids / adverse effects
  • Muramic Acids / analysis
  • Prevalence
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / epidemiology*
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / immunology
  • Schools*
  • Sick Building Syndrome / epidemiology*
  • Sick Building Syndrome / immunology


  • Allergens
  • DNA, Fungal
  • Dust
  • Lipopolysaccharides
  • Muramic Acids
  • Ergosterol