In last week’s post, we talked about some of the things you can do to prevent bacterial infections. Today, we are going to focus on fungal infections. Like bacteria, fungi are highly diverse, so mold sensitivity can have a wide range of effects on your body. The health conditions associated with mold sensitivity and fungal infections range from chronic allergy symptoms to serious autoimmune disorders, so if you struggle with ongoing symptoms or a chronic condition, a mold sensitivity evaluation can be highly beneficial. Read on to learn more about the genetic basis of mold sensitivity, some of the symptoms that suggest you should be tested, and what you can expect from the test.
The Genetic Basis of Mold Sensitivity
In recent years, the biomedical research community has become increasingly aware of the genetic underpinnings of fungal infections. In fact, according to some estimates, the majority of cases of fungal infections are caused by a genetic variant that occurs naturally in about 16 percent of the population. Scientists have also found a variety of other, slightly less common genetic variations that make some people particularly susceptible to fungal infection. These genetic variations, which are known as single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), are changes to just nucleotide in your DNA–but they can have major effects on the way your body responds to a fungal invader.
Scientists have also identified larger genetic characteristics that can make people more responsive to particular fungal pathogens. In a 2014 review paper, a group of researchers at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (a division of the NIH) divided these genetic abnormalities into four different categories, based on the way they interfered with cellular processes. Specifically, they found that certain changes led to:
- Problems with an immune cell’s ability to digest foreign invaders. One way for cells to fight fungal invaders is through phagocytosis–that is, by engulfing and then digesting the invading microbe. However, genetic abnormalities that interfere with the phagocytosis machinery can put you at a higher risk for fungal infection.
- Problems with gene regulation. Proteins called transcription factors help determine when and where certain genes–including those essential for immune system function–are expressed. Genetic changes in certain transcription factors can make you more susceptible to infections from Aspergillus and Cryptococcus, among other fungi.
- Problems with immune cell signaling. In order to communicate with each other and other cells in your body, immune cells release molecules called cytokines. If you have a genetic variant that interferes with cytokine signaling, it can be harder for the cells in your body to coordinate a response to a fungal invader.
- Problems with other types of signaling. There are lots of ways that cells in the immune system communicate with the rest of the body, and disruptions in various signaling systems can make patients more susceptible to common fungi like Candida meningitis and nail dermatophytes.
Should I Get a Mold Sensitivity Evaluation?
As we mentioned above, susceptibility to fungal infection can show up in a variety of different ways, including in the form of serious autoimmune disorders. Therefore, if you have an autoimmune condition like psoriasis or Crohn’s disease, a mold sensitivity evaluation simply makes sense. If you find out that you have a genetic variant that puts you at a higher risk for fungal infections than the rest of the population, it gives your healthcare provider valuable information that can be used for the development of a more effective treatment strategy.
You might also want to get a mold sensitivity evaluation if you suffer from the less severe–but much more common–symptoms associated with fungal allergies. If you have a genetic variant that increases your mold sensitivity, you may be prone to the following symptoms when you are exposed to mold:
- Runny nose or nasal drip
- Itchy or watery eyes
- Scratchy throat
- Shortness of breath
If you’ve been dealing with these symptoms for years and haven’t found a cause–much less a solution–a mold sensitivity evaluation could really help. Based on your results, you can work with your doctor to make lifestyle changes that help alleviate your symptoms and protect your long-term health.
What to Expect from the Screening Test for Mold Sensitivity
The screening test for mold sensitivity is pretty simple. It consists of a series of 25 questions, which you can answer online, and it probably won’t take you longer than five minutes to finish. After you’re done, you will get an email with your results that tells you about the severity of your symptoms and gives you some potential treatment ideas. You can then use the email as a basis for a conversation with your doctor about your fungal infection risk.
Atlanta Chiropractic and Wellness offers an online mold sensitivity screening, and our providers can help you understand and act on your results. Contact us today for more information!