Chaetomium and Moldy Damp Buildings
Chaetomium are a common mold species that has a ubiquitous distribution. There are over 80 species currently known. In previous literature the medical effects of Chaetomium has been downplayed. A vast amount of medical news has been downplayed regarding Chaetomium in past literature.
Chaetomium is commonly found worldwide in soil, dung, decaying plants, and deteriorating wood. It frequently emits a musty odor and is frequently found on water-damaged drywall and other lower cost construction products often used in the United States. Its health effects have not been well studied, however some rare compounds have on occasion been identified as mutagenic.
Chaetomium colonies are rapidly growing, cottony and white in color initially. When the colony matures they can become grey to olive in color. They can appear to go from tan to red, or brown to black. Fruiting structures grow often on compost. Although its heat tolerant spores survive 140 F for 6 hours, the mold appears only in compost improperly managed during Phase II, especially where Phase II ventilation is inadequate. Lack of oxygen when compost temperatures are greater than 142 F permits formation of compounds produced in anaerobic conditions. These compounds are toxic to spawn growth but are utilized by the olive green mold. It is highly cellulolytic.
Chaetomium is one among the many molds that cause infections. It is normally referred to as phaeohyphomycosis. It has been documented evidence of fatal cases. Brain abscess, peritonitis, cutaneous lesions, and onychomycosis may also develop due to Chaetomium exposure.
Chaetomium species are. Most species are prolific producers of the enzyme cellulase that breaks down cellulose. Destruction of paper and other materials containing cellulose (including foods, feeds, paper, textile, bird feathers, seeds and military equipment) by species of this mold is well documented. Due to their strong ability to destroy material, Chaetomium species are often used in testing materials for resistance to mold growth.
Chaetomium is perhaps the third most common indoor fungal contaminant of moldy damp buildings. It may be found on wet drywall, wall-paper, carpets, window frames, baseboards and plywood. The most widespread and common species is Chaetomium globosum. This species causes many problems of biodeterioration of paper and other cellulose containing material. It is considered a “weed” of mushroom beds, where it inhibits the growth of cultivated mushrooms.
Generally the concentration of airborne Chaetomium spores is very low. This is because the spores (= ascospores) are produced within flask-shaped bodies (= perithecia) and not exposed to air like those of molds such as Penicillium and Aspergillus. When the spores mature, they are released inside the perithecium and then squeezed out in a column like toothpaste through an opening at the top of the perithecium. The coiled hairs trap the spores such that they are not easily dispersed into the air by wind. Chaetomium globosum spores
The other reason why the concentration of airborne Chaetomium spores is usually low is because the spores are relatively large and hence have relatively high settling rates and therefore do not remain airborne for long. As a result, airborne spore concentration of Chaetomium is usually low even in contaminated buildings. Due to low air concentration, exposure to airborne Chaetomium is insignificant except in situations where the mold has dried out and disturbed.
Chaetomium is one of those molds that require chronic moisture conditions for it to grow. Its presence is therefore an indication of existing or previous serious moisture problem. A few spores in pre-remediation air samples is an indication of a mold problem in the building. Because of the low airborne concentration, rarely is Chaetomium detected in outdoor samples. Hence any spores detected indoors are highly likely to have a source indoors and not outdoors. One can also sample house dust to determine whether Chaetomium is present or not.
Although Chaetomium species are rarely associated with human infections, there are reports of infections involving individuals with weak immune system. Chaetomium globosum is known to produce 2 toxins in moisture damaged buildings, chaetoglobosins A and C. These toxins have the potential to cause illness to building occupants.
Abdullah SK, Zora SB., 1993 Chaetomium mesopotamicum, a new thermophilic species from Iraqi soil Crypt Bot 3:387-389
Arx JA von, Guarro J, Figueras MJ., 1986 The Ascomycete genus Chaetomium Beih Nova Hedwigia 84:1-162
Cannon PF., 1986 A revision of Achaetomium, Achaetomiella and Subramaniula, and some similar species of Chaetomium Trans Br Mycol Soc 87:45-76
Cano J, Guarro J., 1987 Soil ascomycetes from Spain XII Nova Hedwigia 44:543-546
Carris LM, Glawe DA., 1987 Chaetomium histoplasmoides, a new species isolated from cysts of Heterodera glycines in Illinois Mycotaxon 29:383-391
Decock C, Hennebert GL., 1997 A new species of Chaetomium from Ecuador Mycol Res 101:309-310
de Hoog, G. S., J. Guarro, J. Gene, and M. J. Figueras. 2000. Atlas of Clinical Fungi, 2nd ed, vol. 1. Centraalbureau voor Schimmelcultures, Utrecht, The Netherlands.
Friedman, A. H. 1998. Cerebral fungal infections in the immunocompromised host: A literature review and a new pathogen – Chaetomium atrobrunneum: Case report – Comment. Neurosurgery. 43:1469
Guarro, J., L. Soler, and M. G. Rinaldi. 1995. Pathogenicity and antifungal susceptibility of Chaetomium species. Eur J Clin Microbiol Infect Dis. 14:613-618
Guppy, K. H., C. Thomas, K. Thomas, and D. Anderson. 1998. Cerebral fungal infections in the immunocompromised host: A literature review and a new pathogen – Chaetomium atrobrunneum: Case report. Neurosurgery. 43:1463-1469
Gray, Michael, 2001. Mold, Mycotoxins and Human Health
Hawksworth DL., 1975 Farrowia, a new genus in the Chaetomiaceae Persoonia 8:167-185
Horie Y, Udagawa S., 1990 New or interesting Chaetomium species from herbal drugs Trans Mycol Soc Japan 31:249-258
Kornerup A, Wanscher JH., 1984 Methuen Handbook of Color. 3rd ed London: Erye Methuen. 252 p
Larone, D. H. 1995. Medically Important Fungi – A Guide to Identification, 3rd ed. ASM Press, Washington, D. C.
Mouchacca J., 1997 Thermophilic fungi: Biodiversity and taxonomic status Cryptog Mycol 18:19-69
Moustafa AF, Ess El-Din., 1988 Chaetomium sinaiense sp. nov., a new soil ascomycete from Egypt Can J Bot 67:3417-3419
Pande A, Rao VG., 1990 Ascomycetes of western India-XIV J Econ Tax Bot 14:157-161
Pujol, I., J. Guarro, C. Llop, L. Soler, and J. Fernandez-Ballart. 1996. Comparison study of broth macrodilution and microdilution antifungal susceptibility tests for the filamentous fungi. Antimicrob. Agents Chemother 40:2106-2110
Rock, J. P. 1998. Cerebral fungal infections in the immunocompromised host: A literature review and a new pathogen- Chaetomium atrobrunneum: Case report – Comment. Neurosurgery. 43:1469
Seth HK., 1970 A monograph of the genus Chaetomium Beih Nova Hedwigia 37:1-133
Stchigel AM, Cano J, Mac Cormack W, Guarro J., 2001 Antarctomyces psychrotrophicus gen. et sp. nov., a new ascomycete from Antarctica Mycol Res 105:377-382
Sutton, D. A., A. W. Fothergill, and M. G. Rinaldi (ed.) 1998. Guide to Clinically Significant Fungi, 1st ed. Williams & Wilkins, Baltimore
Udagawa S, Uchiyama S, Kamiya S., 1994 Two new species of pyrenomycetous Ascomycetes from New Caledonia Mycoscience 35:319-325
Udagawa S, Toyazaki N, Yaguchi T., 1997 A new species of Chaetomium from house dust Mycoscience 38:399-402
Fogle, Matthew R (2007). Growth and mycotoxin production by Chaetomium globosum. PhD Dissertation, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center.
Udagawa S, Muroi T, Kurata H, Sekita S, Yoshihira K, Natori S: Chaetomium udagawe: a new producer of sterigmatocystin. Trans Mycol Soc Jap 1979, 20, 475-480.
Domsch KH, Gams W, Anderson T-H: Compendium of Soil Fungi. Academic Press, London 1993.
Arx JA von, Guarro J, Figueras MJ: The Ascomycete Genus Chaetomium. J. Cramer, Berlin 1986.
Barron MA, Sutton DA , Veve R, Guarro J, Rinaldi M, Thompson E, Cagnoni PJ, Moultney K, and Madinger NE, Invasive Mycotic Infections Caused by Chaetomium perlucidum, a New Agent of Cerebral Phaeohyphomycosis. Journal of Clincal Microbiolgy, Nov. 2003, p. 5302–5307 Vol. 41, No. 11
Piecková E: In vitro toxicity of indoor Chaetomium Kunze ex Fr. Ann Agric Environ Med 2003, 10, 9–14.