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Institute of Biotechnology
Molecular analysis of indoor fungi
PhD thesis project / Miia Pitkäranta
Today, increasing attention and concern is addressed to low indoor air quality of living and working environments. The problems often originate from inappropriate microbial or “mold” growth in the building constructions. My thesis work focuses on the fungi in moisture damaged buildings, and more specifically, on developing new, better methods for identification of these fungi.
It is estimated that 55% of the Finnish buildings suffer from moisture damages that require reparation or are in need of more careful investigations. Several epidemiological studies connect moisture and mold findings to a range of health symptoms, varying from upper airway irritation to increased incidence of respiratory infections and asthma.
To be able to study the relationships between different fungal species present in compromised buildings and the health effects potentially caused by these microbes, it is essential that we can analyse the exposure as carefully as possible. For the time being, plate cultivation remains the golden standard method for determination of the microbial status of a building. Yet for the inherent limitations of cultivation based methods, alternatives are being seeked, and DNA-based methods are considered a probabilistic choice.
In collaboration with the Laboratory of Environmental Microbiology of National Health Institute (KTL) led by Prof. Aino Nevalainen, we have already characterized the diversity and seasonal variation of fungi in sample buildings using large scale rDNA library sequencing. Present study efforts concentrate on observing the effects of moisture renovations on the fungal flora. In the future, the obtained sequence information will be utilized in construction of a microbial diagnostic microarray tool for indoor environments. For this and other applications, an LDR-based microarray setup is currently being developed and tested together with the DNA microarray laboratory of Institute of Biotechnology (see also BioFINE chip and Compost Chip).