House Calls
Dr. Noorali Bharwani

You have just invested your life’s savings in a dream home. You have inspected the house thoroughly looking for possible problems. But you forget to check for mould.

It is said that virtually all buildings contain moulds, but some are mouldier than others. Moulds love the interior of the buildings where they can adapt to dry conditions but moulds cannot survive without some moisture. You wonder where the moisture comes from. The source could be a leaky basement, a dripping pipe or a roof in need of repair.

Painted walls and certain types of wallpapers can become overgrown by certain fungi, particularly in humid places such as showers. Moulds can be found in other places in the house. Sometimes you open the fridge and find mould spread over bread and cheese. Mould can be found on books and files as well.

Usually it is hard to know if your house is mouldy until somebody in the house complains of persistant allergies, headache, nausea or respiratory symptoms. A mouldy building can be a serious health hazard.

This brings us to the subject of fungus. Mould is a kind of fungus. Fungi are all around us. Not all fungi are harmful. The American Heritage Science Dictionary defines fungi as any of a wide variety of organisms that reproduce by spores, including the mushrooms, moulds, yeasts, and mildews. Spores can remain dormant for years. Some of the characteristics of fungi are:
-fungi absorb food by excreting enzymes that break down complex substances into molecules that can be absorbed into the hyphae
-the spores of most fungi grow a network of slender tubes called hyphae that spread into and feed off of dead organic matter or living organisms
-fungi can live in a wide variety of environments, fungal spores can survive extreme temperatures and fungi exist in over 100,000 species, nearly all of which live on land
-they can be extremely destructive, feeding on almost any kind of material and causing food spoilage and many plant diseases
-although fungi were once grouped with plants, they are now considered a separate kingdom.

The fungus grows best in moist, damp, dark places with poor ventilation and on skin that is irritated, weakened, or continuously moist. Most of the fungi are very helpful in the natural environment and only a few cause diseases in humans, plants and animals.

Candida is yeast like fungus which may cause athlete’s foot, vaginitis, thrush, or other infections. It can thrive in moist skin fold areas under the breasts, overhanging abdominal adipose tissues, groins, between fingers and toes, in the armpits and in the anus. Some of the fungi are dermatophytes which cause parasitic infections of the skin, hair, nails and adjacent mucous membranes.

Systemic fungal infections occur when spores are touched or inhaled. Such infections are most often in people taking antibiotics which kill off the bacteria that normally keep fungi at bay. This is also the case in people with endocrine disorders, immune diseases, and other conditions such as obesity, AIDS, tuberculosis, major burns, leukemia, and diabetes mellitus. Patients with systemic infection may have no symptoms or may have flu-like symptoms – coughing, fever, chest pain, chills, weight loss, and difficulty with breathing.

Certain fungi, such as mushrooms, can produce poisonous toxins that may prove fatal if ingested. Certain moulds can be highly toxic to humans. A condition called egotism is caused by eating bread prepared from rye infected with the fungus

Skin infection with fungus can be treated with antifungal skin ointment. Systemic fungal infection requires oral antifungal pills. Fungal infection can be prevented by keeping our body and the environment clean and healthy. And make sure your leaky roof is fixed.

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