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Histoplasma capsulatum

Histoplasma capsulatum (teleomorph: Ajellomyces capsulatus) is a microfungus that is endemic to most of the United States, with particularly high concentrations in the Mississippi, St. Lawrence and Ohio River valleys. The fungus thrives in matter with high nitrogen content, in particular, bird manure (i.e. pigeon or starling roosts). Local outbreaks are usually correlated to the disturbance of roosting sites (i.e. a building renovation), which can produce large numbers of airborne fungal spores.

Histoplasmosis (an infection by Histoplasma capsulatum) can be acute, chronic or disseminated. Acute infections are most common in otherwise healthy individuals and it is estimated that more than 95% of these cases will clear up on their own with little more than flu-like symptoms. Chronic histoplasmosis is a disease that can reactivate years, and even decades, after the initial exposure as the host’s immune system weakens. Disseminated histoplasmosis is commonly associated with those individuals with impaired immune systems (such as AIDS patients), and occasionally otherwise healthy individuals under the age of two years. Disseminated histoplasmosis can be life-threatening and is considered a serious fungal infection.

The detection and quantitation of Histoplasma capsulatum faces many problems. First, and foremost, H. capsulatum can not be identified by classical nonviable testing. The spores of H. capsulatum are too similar to certain other fungi to allow an accurate identification. This means all H. capsulatum investigations must be by viable cultures. The analysis is further complicated by the fact that H. capsulatum is a very slow growing fungus. Under ideal laboratory conditions, the fungus takes between six to eight weeks to grow to maturity. These facts dissuade most indoor air quality (IAQ) investigators from testing for this organism. Due to this long growth time, special media must be used for any type of bioaerosol sampling, as you must both promote the growth of H. capsulatum while simultaneously suppressing the growth of more rapidly growing fungi (i.e. Aspergillus, Penicillium, etc.).

So when should an IAQ investigator look for Histoplasma capsulatum, and how should it be done? Histoplasma capsulatum should be suspected in any situation which involves the removal of a significant amount of bird manure, especially in the geographical locations mentioned above. The most common situations involve the renovations of exposed areas in the upper floors of buildings (attics, unfinished upper floors, etc.) where birds have been known to roost for extended periods of time. Another common situation, though unusually from the IAQ standpoint, are areas where chickens have roosted for significant periods of time (i.e. old farm renovations). Sampling is most appropriately done with an Andersen-style impactor utilizing specific media. The most common media for this test are BHI-CC (Difco) and Mycosel (Difco, BD), both of which are available from EMSL with advanced notice. Swab samples may also be submitted, but bulk material should not be submitted as it poses an elevated biosafety risk to the analytical lab.

EMSL Code: M120  Please note that this test may require up to 8 weeks to rule out a negative result.

Sample retention time - 1 week

Full list of services provided for Histoplasma capsulatum ( click for details )
Laboratories providing Histoplasma capsulatum ( click for details )
Ann Arbor, MI - NVLAP Lab Code 101048-4Atlanta, GA - NVLAP Lab Code 101048-1Baton Rouge, LA - NVLAP Lab Code 200375-0Beltsville, MD - NVLAP Lab Code 200293-0Boston, MA - NVLAP Lab Code 101147-0Buffalo, NY - NVLAP Lab Code 200056-0Calgary, Alberta - NVLAP Lab Code 500100-0Carle Place, NY - NVLAP Lab Code 101048-10Charlotte, NC - NVLAP Lab Code 200841-0Chicago, IL - NVLAP Lab Code 200399-0Corporate - Cinnaminson, NJ - NVLAP Lab Code 101048-0Dallas, TX - NVLAP Lab Code 600111-0Denver, CO - NVLAP Lab Code 200828-0EMSL Canada - Montreal -- Quebec - NVLAP Lab Code 201052-0EMSL Canada -- Toronto - NVLAP Lab Code 200877-0EMSL Canada Inc. -- Ottawa - NVLAP Lab Code 201040-0Fort Lauderdale - NVLAP Lab Code 500085-0Houston, TX - NVLAP Lab Code 102106-0Huntington Beach, CA - NVLAP Lab Code 101384-0Indianapolis, IN - NVLAP Lab Code 200188-0Inland Empire, CA - NVLAP Lab Code 600239-0Kernersville, NC - NVLAP Lab Code 102104-0Las Vegas, NV - NVLAP Lab Code 600140-0Miami, FL - NVLAP Lab Code 200204-0Minneapolis, MN - NVLAP Lab Code 200019-0New York, NY - NVLAP Lab Code 101048-9Orlando, FL - NVLAP Lab Code 101151-0Pasadena, CA - NVLAP Lab Code 200232-0Phoenix, AZ - NVLAP Lab Code 200811-0Piscataway, NJ - NVLAP Lab Code 101048-2Plymouth Meeting, PA - NVLAP Lab Code 200699-0Raleigh, NC - NVLAP Lab Code 200671-0Rochester, NY - NVLAP Lab Code 600183-0S. Portland, ME - NVLAP Lab Code 500094-0Salem, NH - NVLAP Lab Code 201051-0San Diego, CA - NVLAP Lab Code 200855-0San Leandro, CA - NVLAP Lab Code 101048-3Seattle, WA - NVLAP Lab Code 200613-0St. Louis, MO - NVLAP Lab Code 200742-0Tampa, FL - NVLAP Lab Code 600215-0Vancouver, BC - NVLAP Lab Code 201068-0Wallingford, CT - NVLAP Lab Code 200700-0West Palm Beach, FL - NVLAP Lab Code 600206-0Weymouth, MA - NVLAP Lab Code 600217-0
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