Date of Award

Summer 2020

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Department

Environmental Health Sciences

First Advisor

Anindya Chanda

Abstract

Over the years, climate change has been a major core issue in public and environmental health. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that about 250,000 additional death per year would be attributed to climate change between 2030 and 2050 if this situation persists. Since our population depends on (but not limited to) the availability of clean water, good air quality, and exposure to environmental hazards/pathogens, the overall health impact caused by climate change is likely to be overwhelming in the nearest future. This dissertation explored the influence of climate change on fungi diseases and pathogenesis after severe weather conditions (hurricanes and flooding). Specifically, I investigated the severity and health implications of the fungal infestations in agriculture and residential environments.

One of my specific aims assessed the influence of hurricane and tidal flooding on indoor mold community structures and the respiratory health of residents. Using both experimental and NHANES database, my study explored fungal involvement in causing harm in the built environment after flooding events and explored the association between mold-induced sensitization in patients diagnosed with asthma and chronic bronchitis. My findings indicate that (1) certain fungi strains impacts health quality and indoor air quality of residential environments after extreme weather condition, (2) this dissertation also identified a statistically significant association between specific mold-induced sensitization in patients diagnosed with asthma conditions but not with chronic bronchitis. My second specific aim explored fungi secondary metabolite (mycotoxins) and its significance as a threat to food safety, especially in countries in hot, humid regions. Using ELISA and other specific laboratory techniques, this study shows that children (especially those from developing countries) are at risk of contamination of food by certain fungi secondary metabolites.

In summary, this study investigated how fungi influence the environment and human health, and findings from this thesis suggest that fungal pathogens indoors and outdoors are of immediate concern to food safety and human health. As the current pandemic (Covid-19) continues to threaten immunity, it is likely diseases associated with exposures to opportunistic fungal pathogens, and their toxins will increase and lead to a significant burden to healthcare if not addressed and mitigated promptly.

Available for download on Monday, February 15, 2021

Share

COinS