Microbial Contamination in Water Damaged Homes
By Cesar Collado
Microbial Soup refers to the common coexistence and synergies of mold, bacteria, and viruses in water damaged homes. My previous article in this series described the conditions that promote the coexistence of multiple microbial species. This article describes some mold and bacterial combinations that are commonly encountered. In these cases, several fungi and bacteria combinations are found together, which can contribute to indoor air quality issues and potential health concerns. As a result, these issues and concerns can then lead to medical consequences and unique hardships encountered by those who are mold sensitive.
Biofilms have become increasingly referenced by medical professionals when addressing microbial infections. Biofilms can form in crevices or “craters” in tissue walls. This is often recognized in cases of chronic sinusitis. The precision and close proximity of endoscopic cameras and tools make this possible. Biofilms are also regularly found in the gut where they wreak havoc on the digestive system. As a result, biofilms can form inside and outside the body and exposure can occur at any time.
Biofilm Formation in Our Bodies
When a foreign antigen enters the body, our body’s protection system will have an immediate reaction. When this occurs, eosinophils will attack immediately and can create some collateral damage in tissues. Consequently, bacteria and fungi can hide in these crevices. Biofilms are formations of a surface matrix that joins and protects the multiple microbes including bacteria and fungi. With the recognition of biofilms, professionals can explain the presence of the endotoxins that can cause a superantigen response.
Examples of Microbial Combinations That Occur
Aspergillus and Pseudomonas:
Aspergillus is a genus of fungi commonly found in water-damaged environments. Some species of Aspergillus can produce mycotoxins that can cause severe illness. Pseudomonas is a group of bacteria that can thrive in moist conditions. In water-damaged homes, the presence of Aspergillus and Pseudomonas together can cause risk for respiratory issues and fungal infections.
Stachybotrys and Streptomyces:
Stachybotrys chartarum, often referred to as black mold, is one of the toxic molds associated with water damage. It is known for producing mycotoxins and is often a health concern. Streptomyces, a genus of bacteria commonly found in soil and decaying plant material, is often present in water-damaged environments. The combination of Stachybotrys and Streptomyces worsens indoor air quality and potentially causes severe respiratory symptoms.
Penicillium and Bacillus:
Penicillium is a common fungus found in water-damaged buildings. However, some penicillium species produce mycotoxins. Bacillus, a group of bacteria, is also often present in water-damaged environments. In particular, it is found in areas with high organic content. As a result, the presence of Penicillium and Bacillus together in building materials can contribute to indoor air quality issues and potential respiratory health effects.
Alternaria and Enterobacter:
Alternaria is another genus of fungi commonly found in water-damaged buildings. Therefore, it can act as an antigen, produce mycotoxins and inflammation in sensitive individuals. As a result, asthma like symptoms might occur in occupants. Enterobacter, a group of bacteria, is often associated with water damaged building materials and can thrive in damp environments. The combination of Alternaria and Enterobacter can worsen indoor air quality and pose a risk to respiratory health.
Water Damage Creates a Dynamic Environment with Many Variables
Specific combinations of fungi and bacteria in water-damaged homes will vary, depending on environmental conditions. Poor environmental conditions include the extent and duration of water damage and the presence of organic materials or food. However, you can address water damage and mitigate the associated microbial risks effectively with the help of professionals. DIY testing in advance will help facilitate the inspection process. Try testing with mold test plates to provide an analysis that will identify more mold species and combinations than PCR analysis.
Single microbial infestation is unlikely for water damaged homes. The presence of moisture with common building materials can be associated with many combinations of microorganisms. When the source of moisture comes from flooding or leaking, Microbial Soup should be the expectation. Using ImmunoLytics Mold Test Plates, you will be able to visually examine the diversity of the mold species cultured from your samples. You will likely find these combinations and countless others on occasion. This information can be helpful when determining your remediation plan, if tests are positive.
“Lab professionals at ImmunoLytics are trained to identify common fungal and bacterial contaminants while analyzing mold test plates.”