Friday, May 30, 2008

Fungus Use Improves Corn-to-ethanol Process

Biofuels: Fungus Use Improves Corn-to-ethanol Process
ScienceDaily (2008-05-30) -- Scientists are developing a process that cleans up and improves the dry-grind ethanol production process. The process uses fungus to reduce energy costs, allow more water recycling and improve a co-product that's used as livestock feed. The process could change ethanol production in dry-grind plants so much that energy costs can be reduced by as much as one-third, according to researchers. ... > read full article

Saturday, May 17, 2008

After-hour HVAC Shutdown May Dramatically Increases Airborne Mold and Bacteria in Offices

A recent study published in the journal of Indoor and Build Environments found that when building HVAC systems are shut down, airborne bacterial and mold concentrations dramatically increase. The study investigated the relationships between the airborne bacteria levels, mold levels, and thermal environmental parameters, i.e., air temperature and relative humidity, in offices with a Heating Ventilation and Air-Conditioning (HVAC) system operating. A total of 101 samples were collected from two typical air-conditioned office buildings. There was evidence that intermittent operation of the HVAC system may significant influence both indoor airborne bacteria and mold levels. The results showed significantly higher airborne bacteria and mold levels in offices during non-office hours when air-conditioning systems were shut down as compared to offices where HVAC systems were left running during non-office hours. The study shows that the airborne bacteria and mold levels correlated with the thermal environmental parameters, i।e. lack of airflow, increase humidity and ambient heating from the outside environment.

Wong, L।T., K.W. Mui, P.S. Hui, W.Y. Chan, and A.K.Y. Law. "Thermal Environmental Interference with Airborne Bacteria and Fungi Levels in Air-Conditioned Offices." Indoor and Built Environment". 17.2 (April 2008): 122(6).

Author's Comments
The findings of this study indicates greater research is needed related to HVAC systems and cost saving provisions, such as after hour shutdown. Property managers and plant managers for schools and office buildings should be aware of these findings. Or more importantly they should bring it to the attention of the proper decision makers. When companies or schools try to save money by shutting down the HVAC during after-hours they may not be aware that they may also create indoor air quality problems. This study found that workers are exposed to elevated concentrations of mold and bacteria when HVAC systems are shut down after hours. Healthy workers are more often more productive, take less sick days, and in general, add to a enjoyable workplace. Even though mold has not been directly linked to major illness in healthy individuals, the effects of long term exposure remain unknown. Moreover, individuals allergic to mold and asthmatics will experience likely experience respiratory symptoms. Their symptoms may not be life threatening, but those individuals will likely not feel 100%. Everyone has had a cold from time to time. It's no fun to be working with a stuffy head and sore throat. But we do it and the cold passes. Just imagine if you went to work everyday and had to deal with cold-like symptoms. It wouldn't be much fun.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Indoor Air Fungus Aids in Biofuel Production

The bane of military quartermasters may soon be a boon to biofuels producers. The genome analysis of a champion biomass-degrading fungus has revealed a surprisingly minimal repertoire of genes that it employs to break down plant cell walls, highlighting opportunities for further improvements in enzymes customized for biofuels production. The results were published online May 4 in Nature Biotechnology by a team of government, academic, and industry researchers led by the U.S. Dept. of Energy Joint Genome Institute (DOE JGI) and Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL).

The discovery of Trichoderma reesei, the target of the published analysis, dates back to World War II, when it was identified as the culprit responsible for the deterioration of fatigues and tents in the South Pacific. This progenitor strain has since yielded variants for broad industrial applications and is known today as an abundant source of enzymes, particularly cellulases and hemicellulases, currently being explored to catalyze the deconstruction of plant cell walls as a first step towards the production of biofuels from lignocellulose.

“The information generated from the genome of T. reesei provides us with a roadmap for accelerating research to optimize fungal strains for reducing the current prohibitively high cost of converting lignocellulose to fermentable sugars,” says Eddy Rubin, DOE JGI Director and one of the paper’s senior authors. “Improved industrial enzyme ‘cocktails’ from T. reseei and other fungi will enable more economical conversion of biomass from such feedstocks as the perennial grasses Miscanthus and switchgrass, wood from fast-growing trees like poplar, agricultural crop residues, and municipal waste, into next-generation biofuels. Through these incremental advances, we hope to eventually supplant the gasoline-dependent transportation sector of our economy with a more carbon-neutral strategy.”

Infective Zygomycetes

Zygomycetes are primitive, but fast growing fungi. The are widely distributed in terrestrial environments where they break down plant debris in soil. However, many species are common environmental contaminants, often causing food spoilage and a few are pathogens of plants, insects, and, humans. By definition, all pathogenic zygomycotic species will grow at 37°C, with the possible exception of the
M. circinelloides. The common genera that infect humans include Rhizopus, followed by Mucor, Rhizomucor, Absidia, Cunninghamella and Syncephalastrum. Underlying diseases in humans include cancer and leukemia, antibiotic or prednisone use, diabetes, deferoxamine and desferrioxamine therapy, transplantation, burn wounds and the associated forms of immunosuppressive therapies. The most common clinical form of zygomycosis is rhinocerebral disease followed by pulmonary, cutaneous/subcutaneous, gastrointestinal and disseminated disease

Bacteria Tesing in The Home or Office

Each of us has from 10,000 to 100,000 billion bacteria on our skin, throat, the surface of the intestine, etc. These bacteria belong to more than 400 different species. The digestive tract, in particular, contains enormous amounts of bacteria. Most do not cause infection because the body is equipped with ways to fight off invasion (antibodies, secretions of mucous, macrophages, etc.) and constantly eliminates them. Sometimes, however, certain microbes are more pathogenic or our defenses are not strong enough. Microbes that are benign for healthy individuals may be dangerous for people with health conditions that put them at risk (immunosuppression, organ transplant, malnutrition, premature birth, etc.). Bacteria are often neglected when conducting indoor air quality assesments. Homes should be checked for at least coliforms and E. coli bacteria (all associated with fecal material), which usually are present because of flooding or black-water (sewage backup). The tests are simple and fast and provide peace of mind.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Fun With Fungi for Teachers and Students.

What you need:
1. A sealable sandwich bag
2. A piece of bread (I used some leftover porkchops, see photo on the right, covered with Pencillium sp.).
3. A paper towel
4. A little soil from outdoors or a potted plant

What you do (Part 1):
1. Place your bread in the bag. Dampen the paper towel and put it in the bag
with the bread and add a pinch of soil. The soil carries a few mold spores.
2. Let some air in the bag and zip it or tie it up so it's securely sealed. Label the
bag with the date and a name for your experiment, say, “Mold Test 1”.
3. Put the bags in a warm, dark place for about three days.
4. Look at the bread with a magnifying glass through the bag. If nothing has
happened after three days, wait three more.
5. Soon you’ll have a mold garden.

Very Important
Breathing too much mold can make you sick. In dirt, mold is very spread out.

What’s happening?
Mold is not a kind of plant. Mold is not a kind of animal. Mold is a kind of fungus.
Fungi (FUN-jie) thrive by attaching themselves to a source of food. Famous
fungi include mushrooms, yeasts, mildews, and “athlete’s foot” fungus.
Mold is made up of millions of spores, or tiny microscopic seeds, all growing
together in a colony. Mold comes in a variety of furry, bright-colored blobseverything
from red to bright purple, depending on the type. The fuzzy-looking
spores weigh so little, tiny air currents can carry them through the air. When they
land someplace where the conditions are just right, they grow into new fungi.

Copyright 2001, Bill Nye and Nye Labs, LLC.All rights reserved.

If you thought mold was a problem, check out this list of fungi that will actually eat your home!

Serpula lacrymans
Coniophora puteana
Donkioporia expansa
Antrodia spp.
Antrodia vaillantii
Coprinus spp., 4 species
Tapinella panuoides
Oligoporus spp
Asterostroma cervicolor
Coniophora marmorata
Gloeophyllum spp.
Serpula himantioides
Oligoporus placenta
Antrodia sinuosa
Gloeophyllum sepiarium
Antrodia xantha
Gloeophyllum abietinum
Trechispora spp.
Dacrymyces stillatus
Leucogyrophana pinastri
Phanerochaete spp.
Phellinus contiguus
Trechispora farinacea
Grandinia spp.
Hyphoderma spp.
Hyphodontia spp.
Diplomitoporus lindbladii
Gloeophyllum trabeum
Leucogyrophana pulverulenta
Lentinus lepideus
Leucogyrophana mollusca
Resinicium bicolor
Trechispora mollusca
Antrodia serialis
Cerinomyces pallidus
Coniophora arida
Cylindrobasidium laeve
Fomitopsis rosea
Hyphoderma praetermissum
Leucogyrophana spp
Pleurotus cornucopiae
Pleurotus ostreatus
Pluteus cervinus
Tomentella sp.
Trametes hirsuta
Antrodia gossypium
Antrodia malicola
Asterostroma laxum
Bjerkandera adusta
Botryobasidium spp.
Crepidotus spp
Fomitopsis pinicola
Grifola frondosa
Heterobasidion annosum
Hyphodontia alutaria
Hyphodontia breviseta
Hyphodontia floccosa
Hyphodontia nespori
Leccinum sp.
Merulius tremellosus
Oligoporus rennyi
Phellinus pini
Pleurotus pulmonarius
Radulomyces confluens
Ramariopsis kunzei
Schizophyllum commune
Schizopora paradoxa
Stereum rugosum
Trametes ochracea
Trametes versicolor
Trechispora invisitata
Trichaptum abietinum
Tubaria furfuracea
Volvariella bombycina
Coprinus domesticus
Dacrymyces tortus
Daedalea quercina
Ditiola radicata
Fomes fomentarius
Hyphoderma puberum
Hypochniciellum molle
Hypholoma fasciculare
Laetiporus sulphureus
Oligoporus caesius
Perenniporia medulla-panis
Phellinus nigrolimitatus
Phlebiopsis gigantea
Physisporinus vitreus
Sistotrema brinkmannii

Orginal Research Citation:
Olaf Schmidt, 2007. Indoor wood-decay basidiomycetes: damage, causal fungi, physiology, identification and characterization, prevention and control. Mycol Progress 6:261–279

Tougher, Stronger, Deadlier E.coli strains Found

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – A particularly severe form of human infection is being linked to a subset of Escherichia coli O157:H7 strains, based on a new phylogenetic analysis of the bug. In the study, published online last night in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers at Michigan State University and elsewhere used phylogenetics to organize several hundred clinically relevant E. coli O157 strains into nine clades. As it turned out, many of the strains isolated from people with the most serious E. coli O157-related disease clustered in just one of these clades: clade eight, which seems to be more prevalent in recent years.

First recognized in the early 1980s, EHEC outbreaks have been linked to a variety of food sources including undercooked ground beef, alfalfa, spinach, unpasteurized fruit juice, salami, wild game meat, and raw milk. The bacteria’s toxins can cause hemorrhagic colitis, which is characterized by abdominal pain, bloody diarrhea, and sometimes vomiting. Young children and the elderly are often hit hardest by the bug. In some cases, infected individuals develop hemolytic uremic syndrome, which can result in kidney failure, seizures, strokes, and other serious complications.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Is Your Home Making You Sick?

NEW YORK (Ivanhoe Broadcast News) -- You may have heard of toxic mold and sick building syndrome. Could your home also make you sick?
The Environmental Protection Agency estimates indoor air quality is two- to five-times more polluted than the air we breathe outside.
"Living in a home that is polluted with mold can cause all sorts of respiratory problems," Neil Schachter, M.D., tells Ivanhoe. That's a great concern to homeowner Scott Lerman, who has a 4-year-old child.
"We want to make sure that our house is as healthy as it can be so that my son can be as healthy as he can be," says Lerman, who agreed to let Dr. Schachter, a lung specialist from Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, inspect his home.
During the inspection, Dr. Schachter found water damage was causing mold to grow in Lerman's shower. He advises the Lermans and anyone with a similar problem to clean moldy showers with chlorinated wipes and avoid spraying any chemicals that might irritate the lungs.
Because dust can also cause respiratory problems like allergies and asthma, Dr. Schachter recommends putting clean area rugs over dusty carpets and getting rid of dust ruffles. He also says not to store items beneath the bed and to be aware that clutter stored in the basement can collect dust. Pollutants can also come from outside, so to keep them out, Dr. Schachter suggests installing a window filter.
"You assume your house is healthy until you get someone to point these things out," says Lerman, who is now committed to eliminating more than just dust in an effort to keep his family healthy.

Clean Up That Moldy Mess

A musty, mildewy smell is the undeniable odor of mold. And it may be lurking in more places than you know -- having harmful effects on your health. Now, we tell you how to track down mold.

Holly Russo's tub comes clean now, but there was once a moldy nightmare lurking underneath it. "Our first reaction, when we saw the mold, was absolute horror. I could not believe what was under there. I've never seen anything like it," says Russo.

Mold that's made its way indoors can cause health problems, but many people still don't understand the hazards. Now, industrial hygienists are growing mold to learn more about how it grows, what it grows on, and how mold makes us sick.

"I want to know what makes up that moldy, musty smell. I want to know are there compounds there that can cause people to have health problems," says Terri Pearce, Ph.D., an industrial hygienist for The Centers for Disease Control's National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

In a lab, with the perfect blend of moisture and warmth, mold spores, or tiny cells, grow on different types of building materials. With the right amount of moisture, mold can grow faster, turning an ordinary ceiling tile into moldy messes.

Researchers learn which materials withstand mold better -- and which moldy smells come from mold that may cause more serious health problems. "Some of the chemicals that make up that odor actually are known to be irritants and so they can cause people to have respiratory health affects," explains Dr. Pearce.

Learning more about mold helps researchers develop better ways to find it, treat health problems, like asthma and allergies, and teach how vital it is to clean up moldy messes.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Airborne Mold Spores Increase Kids' Risk For Multiple Allergies

University of Cincinnati researchers say exposure to a certain group of fungal spores -- abundant in the air that we breathe every day -- can make young children more susceptible to developing multiple allergies later in life. The team found that infants who were exposed to basidiospores and other airborne fungal spores -- specifically Penicillium/Aspergillus and Alternaria -- early in life were more likely to develop allergies to mold, pollen, dust mites, pet dander and certain foods as they grew older.

Household Mold Linked To Depression

A groundbreaking public health study has found a connection between damp, moldy homes and depression. The scientists said the findings came as a complete surprise. This was a large study, analyzing data from 5,882 adults in 2,982 households. Molds are toxins, and some research has indicated that these toxins can affect the nervous system or the immune system or impede the function of the frontal cortex, the part of the brain that plays a part in impulse control, memory, problem solving, sexual behavior, socialization and spontaneity.

Moving Ahead With Guidelines To Control Indoor Mold Contamination

Amid growing public concern about mold contamination of homes and its associated health effects, a new study is recommending policy approaches for controlling mold in homes that could be used on local and nationwide bases

The study, done by Felicia Wu, Tom Biksey, and Meryl H. Karol compares policies for regulation of mold with those previously developed to regulate two other contaminants in the indoor environment, radon and lead. While federal, state, and local agencies have policies and regulations concerning radon and lead, few state or local policies have been developed for mold and no federal agency has Congressional authority to regulate or develop indoor mold policy, the study points out.

Based on lessons from radon and lead, the researchers recommend policy approaches for controlling indoor mold that rely on building and housing codes, maintenance and rehabilitation regulations, home marketing incentives, and public education on moisture and mold control.

“While it is not yet feasible to develop standards and regulations for acceptable mold levels in the home, guidelines and policies can be developed at the federal, state, and local levels to control moisture and mold in homes,” the report states।

American Chemical Society (2007, July 5). Moving Ahead With Guidelines To Control Indoor Mold Contamination. ScienceDaily.

Monday, March 3, 2008


Urticaria or hives is a relatively common form of allergic reaction that causes raised red skin welts. Urticaria is also known as nettle rash or uredo. These welts can be 5 mm (0.2 inches) in diameter or more, itch severely, and often have a pale border. Urticaria is generally caused by direct contact with an allergenic substance, or an immune response to food or some other allergen.

House dust mite

The house dust mite is a cosmopolitan guest in human habitation. Mites belong to the order same as spiders, and have existed for longer than insects. Dust mites flourish in the controlled environment provided to them by buildings. In nature they are killed by predators and by exposure to direct sun rays. Dust mites are considered to be the most common cause of asthma and allergic symptoms worldwide. The enzymes they produce can be smelled most strongly in full vacuum cleaner bags.

It is just possible to see a dust mite under a magnifying glass, when the subject is well lit and placed on a black background.

Bleach and strong soaps do not kill dust mites.

A simple washing will remove most, in the waste water.

Temperatures of over 60 degrees Celsius (140 degrees Fahrenheit) for a period of one hour are usually fatal to dust mites; freezing may also be fatal.

Dust mites reproduce quickly enough that their effect on human health can be significant।

Are Your Dishes Clean? -- What Kills E Coli and Salmonella Bacteria?

Food scientists at The Ohio State University wanted to see if cooler water could kill bacteria on dirty dishes like E. coli and salmonella. The study found that even when dishes were washed in cooler temperatures, it still cleaned enough bacteria away to levels accepted in the food and drug administration's food code.

Can Your Home Trigger Asthma? -- Environmental Toxicologists Link Household Bacteria to Asthma

Scientists have found that chemicals called endotoxins can inflame airways and trigger asthma. Endotoxins are shed by bacteria in household dust. Experts say better home hygiene, washing bed linens in hot water at least once a week, and using allergen-prevention pillow cases and mattress covers can reduce the risk of asthma attacks.

Increased Allergen Levels In Homes Linked To Asthma

Results from a new national survey demonstrate that elevated allergen levels in the home are associated with asthma symptoms in allergic individuals. The study suggests that asthmatics that have allergies may alleviate symptoms by reducing allergen exposures inside their homes. Asthma is one of the most common chronic ailments in the United States, affecting more than 22 million people. Asthma has been shown to be triggered by a wide range of substances called allergens.