Decreased FEV1% in asthmatic adults in Scottish homes with high environmental relative moldiness index values

C. McSharry, S. Vesper, L. Wymer, S. Howieson, R. Chaudhuri, G.R. Wright, N.C. Thomson

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Exposures to indoor biological contaminants have been implicated in asthma's etiology but their effect on lung function is not well quantified.OBJECTIVE:The aim of this cross-sectional study of non-smoking, asthmatic adults in Scotland was to determine the correlation between the results from a standard spirometry test, forced expiratory volume in one second percent (FEV1 %), and quantitative estimates of some biological exposures. A population (n=55) of non-smoking, adult asthmatics in Scotland was included in a this study and each completed a questionnaire that allowed the determination of the Asthma Control Questionnaire scores (ACQ) and St. George's Respiratory Questionnaire scores (SGRQ), as well as corticosteroid use. Spirometry testing was completed and the pre-bronchodilator FEV1 % value calculated. At about the same time, floor dust samples were collected in the living room and in the bedroom. These dust samples were analyzed for mold contamination, as described by the Environmental Relative Moldiness Index (ERMI) values and by (1, 3)-β-D-glucan concentrations; and for endotoxin, and for dust mite, cat, and dog allergens concentrations. The asthmatics' FEV1 % values were tested for correlation (Pearson) to questionnaire-based estimates of health. Also, each biological exposure was tested for correlation (Pearson) to the FEV1 % values.  FEV1 % results were correlated with ACQ scores (rho -0.586, p<0.001), SGRQ scores (rho -0.313, p= 0.020), and weakly with corticosteroid use (rho -0.221, p= 0.105). The ERMI values in the homes (average 5.3) was significantly correlated with FEV1 % values (rho -0.378, p= 0.004). There was no correlation between FEV1 % and concentrations of endotoxin, (1, 3)-β-D-glucan, or any of the allergens. Although these results do not prove that mold exposures caused the deficit in lung function observed in this study, it might be advisable for asthmatics to avoid high ERMI environments.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages20
JournalClinical and Experimental Allergy
Early online date8 Jan 2015
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • ERMI
  • adults
  • asthma
  • lung function
  • biological contaminants


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