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Implications of Detecting the Mold Syncephalastrum in Clinical Specimens of New Orleans Residents After Hurricanes Katrina and Rita

Rao, Carol Y. ScD; Kurukularatne, Changa MD; Garcia-Diaz, Julia B. MD; Kemmerly, Sandra A. MD; Reed, Deoine PhD; Fridkin, Scott K. MD; Morgan, Juliette MD

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: April 2007 - Volume 49 - Issue 4 - p 411-416
doi: 10.1097/JOM.0b013e31803b94f9
Original Articles

After the extensive flooding in New Orleans following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, thousands of homes in the flooded areas had significant growth of mold. The potential health effects from exposures to these extraordinary environments are unknown. In February 2006, we investigated a cluster of patients with clinical specimens yielding Syncephalastrum, a zygomycete that rarely causes infection. We identified the cases of eight patients from September 12, 2005, to January 12, 2006, with specimens from sputum, bronchoalveolar lavage, endotracheal aspirate, ear swab, and nasal swab. All patients appeared to be transiently colonized without evidence of infection, even among immunosuppressed patients. Only one patient reported significant exposure to mold (working on mold remediation without wearing a respirator) on the day of his incident culture.

From the Epidemic Intelligence Service (Dr Rao), and Mycotic Diseases Branch (Drs Rao, Fridkin, and Morgan), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA; and the Ochsner Clinic Foundation (Drs Kurukularatne, Garcia-Diaz, Kemmerly, and Reed), New Orleans, LA.

Address correspondence to: Carol Y. Rao, ScD, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1600 Clifton Road, MS C-09, Atlanta, GA 30333; E-mail:

©2007The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine