The American Physiological Society Press Release

press release logo

APS Contact: APS Communications Office

Email: communications@the-aps.org

Phone: 301.634.7209

Twitter: @APSPhysiology


Global Warming May Cause Spike in Asthma, Allergy Symptoms

Exposure to fungus leads to cell damage in the airways, increases allergy symptoms

Bethesda, Md. (June 6, 2017)—A new study finds that exposure to a widespread outdoor fungus can increase cell damage (oxidative stress) in the airways. This spike weakens the airways’ barrier defense system that, when functioning normally, removes infection- and allergy-causing organisms (mucociliary clearance). The study, published ahead of print in the American Journal of Physiology—Cell Physiology, was chosen as an APSselect article for June.

Alternaria alternata is a fungus that produces spores in the dry, warm weather of late summer and early fall. Previous studies have found that Alternaria produces up to three times more spores when atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) levels are high. Airway exposure to the fungal spores may induce allergy symptoms and asthma in some people.

A research team from the University of Minnesota and the Mayo Clinic took cells from the lining (epithelium) of human airways and exposed them to Alternaria. The researchers analyzed the exposed cells to determine the effects of fungal exposure on permeability properties and barrier function of the epithelium. When permeability is compromised, proteins and nutrients can leak out of the lining and into the airways. In addition, reduced barrier function can let bacteria and other allergens enter the airways, increasing the risk of inflammation and infection.

The research team also measured oxidative stress, or cell damage, in the treated cells. Exposure to Alternaria produced more cell damage in the cells of the airway’s lining. Fungus-treated cells had higher concentrations of calcium, which prompted the epithelial cells to secrete more salt and fluid than usual. Salt and fluid secretion is normally associated with improved mucociliary clearance—keeping the airways free of allergens. “However, prolonged exposure [to Alternaria] leads to disruption of epithelial barrier function that would ultimately reduce mucociliary clearance,” the researchers wrote. Reduced mucociliary clearance typically makes allergy symptoms worse.

Current climate-warming trends may intensify the problem, the research team noted. “These results suggest that continuing increases in atmospheric CO2 associated with global climate change will increase both the level of Alternaria exposure and antigenicity [the ability to produce an immune response] of spores that come in contact with the airways.”

The article, “Airway epithelial anion secretion and barrier function following exposure to fungal aeroallergens: Role of oxidative stress,” is published ahead of print in the American Journal of Physiology—Cell Physiology. It is highlighted as one of this month’s “best of the best” as part of the American Physiological Society’s APSselect program. Read all of this month’s selected research articles on the APSselect website.

NOTE TO JOURNALISTS: To schedule an interview with a member of the research team, please contact the APS Communications Office or 301-634-7209. Find more research highlights in the APS Press Room.

Physiology is the study of how molecules, cells, tissues and organs function in health and disease. Established in 1887, the American Physiological Society (APS) was the first U.S. society in the biomedical sciences field. The Society represents more than 10,500 members and publishes 15 peer-reviewed journals with a worldwide readership.

 


RelatedItems

Penguins Use Their Personalities to Prepare for Climate Change

Released October 8, 2014 - Birds’ individual personalities may be among the factors that could improve its chances of successfully coping with environmental stressors. Research presented at the APS intersociety meeting “Comparative Approaches to Grand Challenges in Physiology.”

A “Crystal Ball” For Predicting the Effects of Global Climate Change

Released August 4, 2010 - By comparing different species to each other, as well as to members within a species that live in different environments, researchers are learning which physiologic features establish environmental optima and tolerance limits. This approach gives the scientific community a “crystal ball” for predicting the effects of global warming. New research focused on species whose body temperatures change in response to their environment and are commonly referred to as “cold-blooded to help predict which organisms will be forced out and which will continue to thrive.

Climate Change and Its Effect on Bird Populations

Released August 4, 2010 - Researchers have found that during heat waves, increases in air temperatures of as little as two degrees Fahrenheit can double the rate of water loss in a small bird and importantly impact its survival time. Their research shows that during heat waves in the 2080s, small birds will show greater increases in water loss rates than larger birds leading to greatly reduced survival times in small birds. For small birds, survival times may be reduced by as much as 30-40%.

Keep Calm Moms: Maternal Stress during Pregnancy Linked to Asthma Risk in Offspring

Released August 1, 2014 - Harvard researchers find that a single bout of stress during pregnancy can affect allergy and asthma susceptibility in neonates. The article is published in AJP – Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology and was chosen as one of this month’s APSselect articles.

Coastal Creatures May Have Reduced Ability to Fight Infections

Released August 4, 2010 -- Researchers have examined the effects of low oxygen and high carbon dioxide on ocean organisms’ immune systems. They have found that organisms in these conditions can’t fight off infections as well as animals living in oxygen rich, low carbon dioxide environments. Observing fish, oysters, crabs and shrimp, revealed these animals have a decreased ability to fight off infection of Vibrio bacteria when subjected to low oxygen, high carbon dioxide conditions. The scientists see evidence that sea animals fighting off infection lower their metabolism, which slows down other important processes like making new proteins.

From: 
Email:  
To: 
Email:  
Subject: 
Message:

~/Custom.Templates/PressRelease.aspx