Comprehensive environmental study in high risk areas for cancer patients comparing air and water Aspergillus species samples

Linda D Lee, The University of Texas School of Public Health


Background. Nosocomial invasive aspergillosis (a highly fatal disease) is an increasing problem for immunocompromised patients. Aspergillus spp. can be transmitted via air (most commonly) and by water. The hypothesis for this prospective study was that there is an association between patient occupancy, housekeeping practices, patients, visitors, and Aspergillus spp. loading. Rooms were sampled as not terminally cleaned (dirty) and terminally cleaned (clean). The secondary hypothesis was that Aspergillus spp. positive samples collected from more than one sampling location within the same patient room represent the same isolate. Methods. Between April and October 2004, 2873 environmental samples (713 air, 607 water, 1256 surface and 297 spore traps) were collected in and around 209 “clean” and “dirty” patient rooms in a large cancer center hospital. Water sources included aerosolized water from patient room showerheads, sinks, drains, and toilets. Bioaerosol samples were from the patient room and from the running shower, flushing toilet, and outside the building. The surface samples included sink and shower drains, showerheads, and air grills. Aspergillus spp. positive samples were also sent for PCR, molecular typing (n = 89). Results. All water samples were negative for Aspergillus spp. There were a total of 130 positive culturable samples (5.1%). The predominant species found was Aspergillus niger. Of the positive culturable samples, 106 (14.9%) were air and 24 (3.8%) were surface. There were 147 spore trap samples, and 49.5% were positive for Aspergillus/Penicillum spp. Of the culturable positive samples sent for PCR, 16 were indistinguishable matches. There was no significant relationship between air and water samples and positive samples from the same room. Conclusion. Primarily patients, visitors and staff bring the Aspergillus spp. into the hospital. The high number of A. niger samples suggests the spores are entering the hospital from outdoors. Eliminating the materials brought to the patient floors from the outside, requiring employees, staff, and visitors to wear cover up over their street clothes, and improved cleaning procedures could further reduce positive samples. Mold strains change frequently; it is probably more significant to understand pathogenicity of viable spores than to commit resources on molecular strain testing on environmental samples alone.

Subject Area

Occupational safety|Oncology

Recommended Citation

Lee, Linda D, "Comprehensive environmental study in high risk areas for cancer patients comparing air and water Aspergillus species samples" (2005). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI3182106.