Ed Yeates ReportingChances are, you or someone you know has an allergy you can't figure out. Researchers in New York and Utah may have solved the mystery. Fungus.
While perhaps not as pervasive here in our desert climate as in wetter areas, this fungus is still among us, all over the place. Spores from fungus in a house damaged by water or outdoors in decaying plants certainly might cause a sneeze or two. But now, this study at the Mayo Clinic is leading researchers down a different fungal path - one that may make the nose sneeze and sniffle, chronically, all the time.
Gerald Gleich, M.D., University of Utah School of Medicine: "The data suggests that chronic fungal colonization, not infection, may drive an immune response that goes on and on and on."
Dr. Gerald Gleich and his colleagues at the University of Utah want to follow up on the Mayo studies with more research in our desert climate.
Gerald Gleich, M.D.: "The particular fungus we're referring to here is called alternaria, and it’s virtually ubiquitous throughout the United States, throughout the world."
On plants, on pieces of wood, in damp areas of our house - floating about in the air - this fungus, more or less, is always with us. Researchers now believe this fungus may be the major villain for people with over-reactive immune systems who end up with chronic rhinosinusitis. Dr. Gleich says the spores don't invade tissue, but simply stimulate the reaction.
Gerald Gleich, M.D.: "It doesn't actually invade the tissues, rather the tissues appear to be stimulated. Stimulate an immune reaction with associated inflammation. That appears to be the mechanism of how this goes on."
If the research proves out, anti-fungal sprays might be able to reduce the severity of the symptoms. Getting rid of the spores may be a more difficult task.