Infant origins of childhood asthma associated with specific molds

J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2012 Sep;130(3):639-644.e5. doi: 10.1016/j.jaci.2012.05.030. Epub 2012 Jul 11.


Background: The specific cause or causes of asthma development must be identified to prevent this disease.

Objective: Our hypothesis was that specific mold exposures are associated with childhood asthma development.

Methods: Infants were identified from birth certificates. Dust samples were collected from 289 homes when the infants were 8 months of age. Samples were analyzed for concentrations of 36 molds that comprise the Environmental Relative Moldiness Index (ERMI) and endotoxin, house dust mite, cat, dog, and cockroach allergens. Children were evaluated at age 7 years for asthma based on reported symptoms and objective measures of lung function. Host, environmental exposure, and home characteristics evaluated included a history of parental asthma, race, sex, upper and lower respiratory tract symptoms, season of birth, family income, cigarette smoke exposure, air conditioning, use of a dehumidifier, presence of carpeting, age of home, and visible mold at age 1 year and child's positive skin prick test response to aeroallergens and molds at age 7 years.

Results: Asthma was diagnosed in 24% of the children at age 7 years. A statistically significant increase in asthma risk at age 7 years was associated with high ERMI values in the child's home in infancy (adjusted relative risk for a 10-unit increase in ERMI value, 1.8; 95% CI, 1.5-2.2). The summation of levels of 3 mold species, Aspergillus ochraceus, Aspergillus unguis, and Penicillium variabile, was significantly associated with asthma (adjusted relative risk, 2.2; 95% CI, 1.8-2.7).

Conclusion: In this birth cohort study exposure during infancy to 3 mold species common to water-damaged buildings was associated with childhood asthma at age 7 years.

MeSH terms

  • Asthma / etiology*
  • Child
  • Cohort Studies
  • Environmental Exposure
  • Fungi / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Infant