Exposure to indoor fungi is of growing concern in residential and occupational environments in the United States. The purpose of this study was to determine the prevalence of sensitization to common indoor fungal species in an atopic population. We evaluated 102 patients (73 female and 29 male patients)for immunoglobulin E (IgE) reactivity to a panel of skin-prick test (SPT) reagents used for routine allergy testing. Patients also were tested for six additional fungi that are common indoor contaminants. All patients had symptoms consistent with allergic rhinitis or asthma. The presence of specific IgE against the fungal species was determined using immunoblotting. Of the 102 eligible patients, 68% had at least one positive skin test. The most prevalent positive SPTs were to dust mites, cats, vernal grass, and short ragweed. Overall, 21/102 (21%) patients with asthma or allergic rhinitis were skin test positive to at least one fungal extract. Of the patients with a positive SPT to fungi, 12/21 (58%) showed sensitivity to one or more of the newly tested species; most notably Trichoderma viride (8%), Chaetomium globosum (7%), Paecilomyces variotii (7%), and Acremonium strictum (6%). Immunoblotting revealed specific IgE against a number of protein bands belonging to these fungal species. The prevalence of fungal sensitization was common, particularly for indoor fungal contaminants that are not routinely included in SPT panels. Cross-reactivity with other fungi may partially explain our results; however, skin testing for these indoor fungi may provide useful diagnostic information.
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