Indoor fungal diversity and asthma: a meta-analysis and systematic review of risk factors

J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2015 Jan;135(1):110-22. doi: 10.1016/j.jaci.2014.07.002. Epub 2014 Aug 23.


Background: Indoor dampness increases the risk of indoor fungal growth. A complex interaction between occupant behaviors and the built environment are thought to affect indoor fungal concentrations and species diversity, which are believed to increase the risk of having asthma, exacerbation of asthma symptoms, or both. To date, no systematic review has investigated this relationship.

Objective: This review aims to assess the relationship between exposure to indoor fungi identified to the genera or species level on asthma outcomes in children and adults.

Methods: Ten databases were systematically searched on April 18, 2013, and limited to articles published since 1990. Reference lists were independently screened by 2 reviewers, and authors were contacted to identify relevant articles. Data were extracted from included studies meeting our eligibility criteria by 2 reviewers and quality assessed by using the Newcastle-Ottawa scale designed for assessment of case-control and cohort studies.

Results: Cladosporium, Alternaria, Aspergillus, and Penicillium species were found to be present in higher concentrations in homes of asthmatic participants. Exposure to Penicillium, Aspergillus, and Cladosporium species were found to be associated with increased risk of reporting asthma symptoms by a limited number of studies. The presence of Cladosporium, Alternaria, Aspergillus, and Penicillium species increased the exacerbation of current asthma symptoms by 36% to 48% compared with those exposed to lower concentrations of these fungi, as shown by using random-effect estimates. Studies were of medium quality and showed medium-high heterogeneity, but evidence concerning the specific role of fungal species was limited.

Conclusion: Longitudinal studies assessing increased exposure to indoor fungi before the development of asthma symptoms suggests that Penicillium, Aspergillus, and Cladosporium species pose a respiratory health risk in susceptible populations. Increased exacerbation of current asthma symptoms in children and adults were associated with increased levels of Penicillium, Aspergillus, Cladosporium, and Alternaria species, although further work should consider the role of fungal diversity and increased exposure to other fungal species.

Keywords: Systematic review; damp; indoor fungi and allergic asthma.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants / classification*
  • Air Pollutants / isolation & purification
  • Air Pollution, Indoor / adverse effects*
  • Air Pollution, Indoor / analysis
  • Asthma / epidemiology*
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Environmental Exposure / analysis
  • Fungi / classification*
  • Fungi / isolation & purification
  • Humans
  • Risk Factors


  • Air Pollutants