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Environ Int. 2002 Jul;28(3):153-7.

Validity of detection of microbial growth in buildings by trained dogs.

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Laboratory of Environmental Microbiology, National Public Health Institute, Kuopio, Finland.


Microbial growth in buildings may evoke respiratory and other symptoms in the occupants and promote decay of construction materials. The decay in wood is usually caused by dry-rot fungus, leading to the decomposition of cellulose and lignin. There are also some mold fungi and bacteria that can use wood as a nutrient. In this study, two trained dogs were used to detect microbial growth present in buildings. The rot fungi Serpula lacrymans, Coniophora puteana and Antrodia sinuosa were used in the training. In addition to decay samples, pieces of healthy birch, pine and imbued wood were used as controls. Another experiment was made using bacteria (Streptomyces sp.). In these experiments, a total of 100 decay, 75 control and 25 bacteria samples were used. The dogs detected 75% of the decay and 60% of the bacteria samples. Some (0-24%) control samples were also expressed as positive. Since the dogs identified also the bacteria samples without any specific training, a new test with some mold strains (Cladosporium, Botrytis, Trichoderma, Penicillium, Aspergillus) was carried out. The dogs found all the decay, mold and bacteria samples but only one sample of healthy wood. The use of dogs to detect mold or decay damage appears to have high specificity and high positive predictive value, but low sensitivity.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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