Keywords: air quality, asthma triggers, environmental research, airborne fungi, outdoor exposure, Puerto Rico, GIS, geographic information systems, fungal allergens
Isolation and identification of airborne fungi that can cause asthma: a case study from Eastern Puerto Rico
Asthma is a growing worldwide chronic disease increasing in both prevalence and exacerbations throughout the late 20th century. The US. Centre for Disease Control reports showed that Puerto Rico had a higher overall prevalence of lifetime (19.6%) and current (11.6%) asthma. The central eastern region of the island has the highest prevalence in the age range of 0-17. The goal of this study was to isolate and identify airborne fungi that can contribute to asthma incidence in this part of the island. Air was sampled from 11 communities in the municipality of Caguas. A total of 514 isolates were identified to genus and spatial distribution of the identified fungi was completed using Geographic Information Systems to address potential geomorphologic and anthropogenic contributors for their presence. Four of the top six locations sampled with the highest number of colonies were classified as urban. These sites are developed areas and have moderate to high vehicular traffic. This work revealed the presence of fungal allergens that can be potential asthma triggers and establishes a rationale for future research in this area.