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Pillows Can Be Heavily Contaminated with Fungi

Both feather and synthetic types play host to many species

THURSDAY, Dec. 15 (HealthDay News) -- Contrary to the common belief that most exposure to fungi occurs outside the home, pillows can be contaminated by a heavy load of several types of fungi, particularly Aspergillus fumigatus, according to a study in the January issue of Allergy. The finding has important implications for patients with respiratory disease, such as asthma or sinusitis, the authors report.

Ashley A. Woodcock, M.D., of the University of Manchester, U.K., and colleagues tested 10 pillows that had been in regular use for between 1.5 and 20 years. They took swatches from the pillows and vacuumed them for dust, and then quantitatively cultured the samples for fungi.

The three most commonly found species were A. fumigatus, Aureobasidium pullulans and Rhodotorula mucilaginosa, but 47 other species were also found. There were four to 16 species in each pillow. Synthetic pillows had more species, and they were more likely than feather pillows to contain the allergenic A. fumigatus species.

"Given the time spent sleeping, and the proximity of the pillow to the airway, synthetic and feather pillows could be the primary source of fungi and fungal products. It is extraordinary that such a major unidentified source of fungal exposure has literally been staring us in the face," the authors conclude.

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