We examined microbial correlates of health outcomes in building occupants with a sarcoidosis cluster and excess asthma. We offered employees a questionnaire and pulmonary function testing and collected floor dust and liquid/sludge from drain tubing traps of heat pumps that were analyzed for various microbial agents. Forty-nine percent of participants reported any symptom reflecting possible granulomatous disease (shortness of breath on exertion, flu-like achiness, or fever and chills) weekly in the last 4 weeks. In multivariate regressions, thermophilic actinomycetes (median = 529 CFU/m2 ) in dust were associated with FEV1 /FVC [coefficient = -2.8 per interquartile range change, P = 0.02], percent predicted FEF25-75% (coefficient = -12.9, P = 0.01), and any granulomatous disease-like symptom [odds ratio (OR) = 3.1, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 1.45-6.73]. Mycobacteria (median = 658 CFU/m2 ) were positively associated with asthma symptoms (OR = 1.5, 95% CI = 0.97-2.43). Composite score (median = 11.5) of total bacteria from heat pumps was negatively associated with asthma (0.8, 0.71-1.00) and positively associated with FEV1 /FVC (coefficient = 0.44, P = 0.095). Endotoxin (median score = 12.0) was negatively associated with two or more granulomatous disease-like symptoms (OR = 0.8, 95% CI = 0.67-0.98) and asthma (0.8, 0.67-0.96). Fungi or (1→3)-β-D-glucan in dust or heat pump traps was not associated with any health outcomes. Thermophilic actinomycetes and non-tuberculous mycobacteria may have played a role in the occupants' respiratory outcomes in this water-damaged building.
Keywords: Actinobacteria; Actinomycetes; Bacteria; Fungi; Non-tuberculous mycobacteria; Office buildings.
© 2015 John Wiley & Sons A/S. Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.