Airborne and allergenic fungal spores of the Karachi environment and their correlation with meteorological factors
Airborne fungal spores are well known to cause respiratory allergic diseases particularly bronchial asthma, allergic rhinitis, rhino-conjunctivitis and allergic broncho-pulmonary aspergillosis in both adults and children. In order to monitor and analyze airborne fungal flora of the Karachi environment, an aeromycological study was conducted using a Burkard 7-Day Recording Volumetric Spore Trap from January to December 2010. The data recorded from the Spore Trap was further analyzed for percent catch determination, total spores concentration, seasonal periodicities and diurnal variations. Cladosporium spp (44.8%), Alternaria spp. (15.5%), Periconia spp (6.1%), Curvularia spp (2.1%), Stemphylium spp (1.3%) and Aspergillus/Penicillium type (1%) emerged to be major components constituting more than 70% of the airborne fungal flora. Cladosporium, Curvularia and Stemphylium displayed a clear seasonal trend, while there were no clear seasonal trends for other fungal spore types. Diurnal variations were observed to be mainly having daytime maxima. Spearman Rank Correlation Coefficient analysis was conducted using various weather parameters. The various fungal types showed a negative correlation with heat index, dew point, wind velocity and wind chill. However, a positive correlation was found with humidity, rain and barometric pressure. In fact, Alternaria, Bipolaris and Periconia showed a negative correlation with temperature, while Cladosporium and Periconia showed a negative correlation with heat index, dew point, wind velocity and wind chill. The barometric pressure was positively correlated with Cladosporium. On the basis of these findings, it can be concluded that a number of fungal spores are present in the atmosphere of Karachi throughout the year, with certain atmospheric conditions influencing the release, dispersion, and sedimentation processes of some genera. It is expected that clinicians will use the identified fungal flora for diagnosis and treatment and/or adopt preventative measures for allergic individuals.