Airborne fungi in Universiti Sains Malaysia: knowledge, density and diversity

Environ Monit Assess. 2021 Jul 22;193(8):504. doi: 10.1007/s10661-021-09238-0.


Airborne fungi are among common contaminants in indoor and outdoor environments, leading to poor indoor air quality (IAQ), and to some extent, implicate health risks to humans worldwide. In Malaysia, fungal contamination in institutional buildings is rarely documented although these places are frequently visited by many. This study was conducted to assess the density and diversity of airborne fungi in Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) main campus, Penang. A total of 11 sampling sites were assessed. Fungi were collected by using Andersen Single Stage Impact Air Sampler N-6 and MEA plates. Two separate trials, namely Trial 1 and Trial 2, were conducted in 2008 and 2019, respectively. The recovered fungi were identified up to the genus level-based morphological features. A survey involving 400 respondents among USM staff and students in relation to fungal contamination in indoor air environment was also conducted to evaluate the knowledge on indoor fungi among USM community. The densities of indoor air fungi in Trial 1 were higher; ranging from 81 to 1743 CFU/m3, exceeding the recommended level set by the Malaysia Industry Code of Practice (MCPIAQ) in some sampling sites, compared to that of in Trial 2 where the densities ranged from 229 to 699 CFU/m3. A total of 154 isolates and 230 isolates of airborne fungi were recovered in Trial 1 and Trial 2, respectively. In total, 11 fungal genera were identified in both trials, and three genera were predominant: Aspergillus, Penicillium, and Cladosporium. The survey also revealed that knowledge of IAQ among staff and students was limited and that they were unaware of fungal contamination and IAQ. A continuous and wide-spread awareness should be implemented at USM main campus for safer and healthier indoor air environments, particularly university students where productivity and efficiency are of the utmost importance.

Keywords: Allergens; Awareness; Fungal diversity; Indoor air quality; Malaysia.

MeSH terms

  • Air Microbiology*
  • Air Pollution, Indoor* / analysis
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Fungi
  • Humans
  • Malaysia