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Allergy season in Poland. Fungi that parasitize plants may be an ‘underestimated source of allergens’

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According to the latest research conducted by experts from the Maria Curie-Skłodowska University (UMCS) in Lublin, fungi that parasitize plants can also be a source of allergens. Their spores are easily airborne and can spread over long distances in windy weather.

Plant-parasitic fungi are an underestimated source of allergens. They occur, for example, on weeds, herbaceous and ornamental plants, fruit trees and shrubs. In some seasons, they spore much more strongly than they pollen plants, said biologist Prof. Agnieszka Szuster-Ciesielska from the Department of Virology and Immunology of the Maria Curie-Skłodowska University (UMCS). Together with PhD student Monika Sztandera-Tymoczek, they are the authors of the latest, review work on fungi parasitic on plants, which can be a potential source of allergens.

– Sometimes it is difficult for an allergist to diagnose what is causing inhalant allergies because the testing panel is limited. The clinic can perform skin or immunological tests for the most commonly known allergens, such as pollen, animal hair, mites, mold fungi, but there are no fungi parasitic on plants among these allergens – the professor pointed out.

On weeds, trees, bushes

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She reported that fungi also occur on commonly known plants, such as weeds, herbaceous and ornamental plants, or on fruit trees and shrubs. – These plants have their fungal parasites that pollute at certain times of the year. Their spores float in the air in large numbers, and in windy weather they move over long distances. If a person working on a plantation, for example of raspberries infected with a fungus, turns out to be sensitive, he or she may develop an allergic reaction that may even turn into asthma, but the currently available tests will not show the cause of the allergy – explained Szuster-Ciesielska and added that the purpose of the research conducted at the Maria Curie-Skłodowska University is to extension of the allergy test panel with new species of mushrooms.

All the more so – as she pointed out – in some seasons of the year, fungi that parasitize plants spore much more strongly than they pollen plants, such as willow, hazel or birch. – Mushrooms cause a variety of allergic respiratory diseases, ranging from conjunctivitis, rhinitis, allergic rhinosinusitis, asthma, bronchopulmonary mycosis, and ending with severe asthma with allergy to mushrooms – said the virologist, emphasizing that mushrooms are a significant but still an underestimated source of allergens.

The influence of the weather

The professor also referred to the impact of climate change on increasing the range of occurrence of both plants and their fungal parasites. She pointed out that violent weather phenomena such as hurricanes, cyclones, storms cause a significant dissemination of fungal spores and their spread to larger or completely new areas. It has been shown that the occurrence of asthma cases is correlated with an increase in the concentration of fungal spores in the air and the intensity of thunderstorms.

– After great hurricanes, such as Katrina or Rita in the United States, the incidence of respiratory allergies and asthma increased sharply in those areas where mold fungi began to spread due to water retention – reported Szuster-Ciesielska.

She added that the incidence of allergic diseases in the world is rapidly increasing, and according to the World Allergy Organization, the percentage of patients varies from 10 to even 40 percent, depending on the country. – According to forecasts, by 2030, half of the inhabitants of the European Union will be affected by an allergy for some reason – she warned.

Main photo source: Shutterstock

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