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Fungal Hypersensitivity, Part 2

Posted Oct 14 2009 10:02pm
This is a continuation of the article on Fungal Hypersensitivity by the late Dr. Vincent Marinkovich.

These are only excerpts. I highly recommend reading the article in its entirety.

V. Symptoms

While the symptoms seen in patients exposed to high ambient levels of fungal elements can vary a great deal among different individuals, a fairly consistent pattern of illness is seen in patients presenting with sufficient symptoms to warrant seeing a physician. Most patients describe a progression of symptoms beginning a few months to a few years after the onset of exposure (e.g., moving into a mold-infested house). Initially the complaints are nasopharyngeal (sore throats, hoarseness, stuffy nose, transient hearing loss) or pulmonary (cough, wheezing, shortness of breath). With time, symptoms progress to include headaches, fatigue, rashes, vertigo, muscle and joint pain, fever, recurrent sinus or ear infections, etc. (Rylander, 1994). Many of these symptoms are the result of an overactive immune system trying desperately to overcome what it perceives to be an overwhelming infection. The immune system generates antibodies to the absorbed materials (or antigens). These antibodies react with the antigens to form immune complexes, which is all part of the body’s normal immune elimination function. These complexes are quickly taken up by scavenger cells, which remove the complexes from the circulation, thus limiting their inflammatory effects. When complex formation continues over a long period of time, this clearing mechanism can become overloaded. The complexes then remain in the blood stream, causing myriad symptoms, known to clinical immunologists as serum sickness or immune complex disease (Cochrane et al., 1973). To the patient, the symptoms appear to be a severe, unrelenting flu syndrome. When one looks up in the older literature the classical symptoms seen in serum sickness, they are exactly those symptoms the patients with fungal illness describe to their physician (Von Pirquet, 1951).

Since hypersensitivity states develop only after relatively long exposure times, normal children under 10 years of age do not have significant antibody titers to fungi. However, when children experience very high exposure levels in the home or school, measurable antibody levels appear rather quickly—that is, within a few months of exposure. Normal mature adults living in temperate or tropical climates commonly show antibody activity toward fungi and experience symptoms following unusual exposures. The onset of symptoms often follows exposures by 1 or 2 days, the symptoms are not recognized for what they are, and the symptoms are likely to be diagnosed as a virus infection.

VI. Mycotoxins

Mycotoxins are the most respected of fungal products for their potential to cause serious illness through their direct biochemical action on key body functions (Croft et al., 1986; Johanning et al., 1996; Leino et al., 2003). The immune system is not involved. One of these, aflatoxin, is known to be among the most potent of carcinogens. Another group, trichothecenes, are toxins released by the fungus Stachybotrys atra (also known as chartarum) as well as others. There is controversy regarding the role of trichothecene mycotoxins in pulmonary hemosideroisis (Dearborn et al., 1999). Other toxins can affect various hormonal, neurological, and other body functions to produce serious health effects (Sorenson, 1999). They are so effective in certain biological activities that they have been harnessed by the pharmaceutical and food industries for commercial use such as antibiotics, immune suppressants to control graft rejection, medicine for cholesterol control, and enzymes used in food processing and preservation. Mycotoxins are produced by fungi under specific growth conditions, and their role in human illness is not well understood. Exposure to certain mycotoxins producing organisms such as Stachybotrys seem to cause neurological damage seen as short-term memory loss, cognitive dysfunction, inability to concentrate, and "fuzzy thinking." There are common complaints of patients with fungal illness. The changes seem to be reversible, at least in part, but they can take years to resolve. Hyperactive immune systems responding to the influx of fungal antigens following chronic exposures are much more likely to be a cause of symptoms in most individuals.

Dr. Marinkovich goes on to talk about immune complexes, food molds, colonization and the use of antifungals. His conclusion is as follows:

The best treatment for health problems arising from exposure to high fungal levels is prevention. A key prerequisite to prevention is education. Information about the nature of fungi, their presence in foods, their rapid proliferation after water intrusion in homes, workplaces, and schools, and their potential for health effects must be made easily available to the general public. The Internet has already provided such information to millions who use computers. Insurance companies are excluding mold damage from the coverage provided in homeowner policies, and this may alert the homeowner to the danger and to his/her responsibility to move rapidly to minimize the effects of water leaks. Reports in the media of litigation by celebrities experiencing fungal illness also helps increase public awareness of the problem. Public health service organizations have to date been more concerned to quell the public’s concern about mold problems by suggesting that it is not an important issue. This is a disservice. It would be far better to acknowledge the potential health effects of mold exposure along with suggestions for controlling mold levels in homes, workplaces, and schools.
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