HealthDay News — Climate change may increase people’s exposure to an outdoor fungus that can damage airway cells, leading to a rise in asthma and allergy symptoms, according to a study published online in the American Journal of Physiology-Cell Physiology.
The widespread fungus, called Alternaria alternata, produces spores in the dry, warm weather of late summer and early fall, said researchers from the University of Minnesota and the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. Previous research has shown that the fungus produces up to three times more spores when atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) levels are high. Rising CO2 emissions are thought to contribute to climate change. In some people, exposure to the spores can trigger allergy symptoms and asthma, the researchers explained.
For this study, the research team exposed cells from the linings of human airways to Alternaria and found it produced more cell damage. They warned that climate change might intensify the problem.
“These results suggest that continuing increases in atmospheric CO2 associated with global climate change will increase both the level of Alternaria exposure and antigenicity of spores that come in contact with the airways,” the authors write.
Zaidman N, O’Grady K, Patil N, et al. Airway epithelial anion secretion and barrier function following exposure to fungal aeroallergens: Role of oxidative stress [published online April 26, 2017]. Am J Physiol Cell Physiol. doi: 10.1152/ajpcell.00043