Purpose: The effects of air pollutants have been receiving increased attention both clinically and in the media. One such pollutant is mold, fungal growth in the form of multicellular filaments known as hyphae. The growth of molds is omnipresent not only in outdoor settings but also in indoor environments containing excessive amounts of moisture.
Methods: PubMed was searched for relevant articles using terms such as mold, mycotoxins, fungi, immunity, inflammation, neurodevelopment, cognition, Alzheimer's, and autism.
Findings: Exposure to molds is most commonly associated with allergies and asthma. However, it is now thought to be associated with many complex health problems, since some molds, especially Trichoderma, Fusarium and Stachybotrys spp, produce mycotoxins that are absorbed from the skin, airways, and intestinal lining. People exposed to molds and mycotoxins present with symptoms affecting multiple organs, including the lungs, musculoskeletal system, as well as the central and peripheral nervous systems. Furthermore, evidence has recently implicated exposure to mycotoxins in the pathogenesis of autism spectrum disorder. The effects of mycotoxins can be mediated via different pathways that include the secretion of pro-inflammatory cytokines, especially from mast cells.
Implications: The information reviewed indicates that exposure to mold and mycotoxins can affect the nervous system, directly or through immune cell activation, thus contributing to neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism spectrum disorder.
Keywords: autism; brain; cognition; fungus; inflammation; mast cells; mold; mycotoxins.
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