Real-time PCR detection of toxigenic Fusarium in airborne and settled grain dust and associations with trichothecene mycotoxins

Anne Straumfors Halstensen, Karl-Christian Nordby, Wijnand Eduard, Sonja Sletner Klemsdal
Journal of Environmental Monitoring: JEM 2006, 8 (12): 1235-41
Inhalation of immunomodulating mycotoxins produced by Fusarium spp. that are commonly found in grain dust may imply health risks for grain farmers. Airborne Fusarium and mycotoxin exposure levels are mainly unknown due to difficulties in identifying Fusarium and mycotoxins in personal aerosol samples. We used a novel real-time PCR method to quantify the fungal trichodiene synthase gene (tri5) and DNA specific to F. langsethiae and F. avenaceum in airborne and settled grain dust, determined the personal inhalant exposure level to toxigenic Fusarium during various activities, and evaluated whether quantitative measurements of Fusarium-DNA could predict trichothecene levels in grain dust. Airborne Fusarium-DNA was detected in personal samples even from short tasks (10-60 min). The median Fusarium-DNA level was significantly higher in settled than in airborne grain dust (p < 0.001), and only the F. langsethiae-DNA levels correlated significantly in settled and airborne dust (r(s) = 0.20, p = 0.003). Both F. langsethiae-DNA and tri5-DNA were associated with HT-2 and T-2 toxins (r(s) = 0.24-0.71, p < 0.05 to p < 00.01) in settled dust, and could thus be suitable as indicators for HT-2 and T-2. The median personal inhalant exposure to specific toxigenic Fusarium spp. was less than 1 genome m(-3), but the exposure ranged from 0-10(5) genomes m(-3). This study is the first to apply real-time PCR on personal samples of inhalable grain dust for the quantification of tri5 and species-specific Fusarium-DNA, which may have potential for risk assessments of inhaled trichothecenes.

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