Water-damaged housing has been associated with a number of negative health outcomes, principally respiratory disease and asthma. Much of what we know about fungi associated with water-damaged buildings has come from culture-based and immunochemical methods. Few studies have used high-throughput sequencing technologies to assess the impact of water-damage on microbial communities in residential buildings. In this study we used amplicon sequencing and quantitative-PCR to evaluate fungal communities on surfaces and in airborne dust in multiple units of a condemned public housing project located in the San Francisco Bay Area. We recruited 21 households to participate in this study and characterized their apartments as either a unit with visible mold or no visible mold. We sampled airborne fungi from dust settled over a month-long time period from the outdoors, in units with no visible mold, and units with visible mold. In units with visible mold we additionally sampled the visible fungal colonies from bathrooms, kitchens, bedrooms, and living rooms. We found that fungal biomass in settled dust was greater outdoors compared to indoors, but there was no significant difference of fungal biomass in units with visible mold and no visible mold. Interestingly, we found that fungal diversity was reduced in units with visible mold compared to units with no visible mold and the outdoors. Units with visible mold harbored fungal communities distinct from units with no visible mold and the outdoors. Units with visible mold had a greater abundance of taxa within the classes Eurotiomycetes, Saccharomycetes, and Wallemiomycetes. Colonies of fungi collected from units with visible mold were dominated by two Cladosporium species, Csphaerospermum and C halotolerans. This study demonstrates that high-throughput sequencing of fungi indoors can be a useful strategy for distinguishing distinct microbial exposures in water-damaged homes with visible and nonvisible mold growth, and may provide a microbial means for identifying water damaged housing.

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Citation: Sylvain IA, Adams RI, Taylor JW (2019) A different suite: The assemblage of distinct fungal communities in water-damaged units of a poorlymaintained public housing building. PLoS ONE 14 (3): e0213355. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0213355