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Indoor Air. 2005;15 Suppl 9:89-97.

Use of surrogate markers of biological agents in air and settled dust samples to evaluate a water-damaged hospital.

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Division of Respiratory Disease Studies, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Morgantown, WV 26505, USA.


An environmental survey was conducted in two hospital buildings in Montana, one of which had historical water incursion on the top floors and higher prevalence of reported respiratory symptoms that improved when the occupants were away from work. We measured culturable fungi and bacteria, fungal spores, endotoxin, and sub-micron particles in air; and culturable fungi and bacteria, endotoxin, markers of fungi (extra-cellular polysaccharides specific for Penicillium/Aspergillus, ergosterol, and beta(1-->3) glucans) and cat allergen in chair and floor dusts. For the analytes measured in air, the correlation coefficients ranged from 0.43 to 0.78 (P < 0.05). In chair dust, beta(1-->3) glucan concentrations correlated with culturable fungi and ergosterol concentrations. We found that sub-micron particles and markers of microbiological agents, but not culturable microbiological agents, were significantly positively associated with the building that had both historical water damage and higher prevalence of reported respiratory symptoms. Chair dust measurements tended to be higher in the non-complaint building. These results suggest that air and floor dust measurements of marker compounds may be better indicators of current health risk in a water-damaged environment than chair dust measurements or measurements of culturable fungi or bacteria in air or settled dust.


Detection and quantification of nonculture-based microbiological markers and/or agents of disease may be useful methods to assess microbial contamination and to more accurately evaluate microbial exposures in the indoor environment for exposure-response studies.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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