Ulocladium chartarum

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Code: m204
Latin name: Ulocladium chartarum
Source material: Spores and mycelium
Family: Pleosporaceae

Mould

A mould, which may result in allergy symptoms in sensitised individuals.

Allergen Exposure

Ulocladium spp., phylogenetically related to Alternaria, is a dematiaceous, filamentous fungus that inhabits the soil and decaying herbaceous plants. It is widely distributed in nature and may also be isolated from paper, textiles, and wood. (1) Ulocladium is commonly considered a contaminant. There are approximately 18 species in this genus, some of which are food spoilers and plant pathogens. The species also contains members that have potential as enzyme producers and bio-control agents. Ulocladium spp. is often found on dead vegetation; in soil, air and dust; but also on food and feedstuffs, and on water-damaged building materials. (2) Some members of the genus can invade homes and are a sign of moisture, because the mould requires water to thrive. It is also found in mattress dust, and in air conditioners in dry climates. They can cause plant disease.

Colonies of Ulocladium grow moderately rapidly. The growing colonies are woolly to cottony. From both the front and the reverse, the colour is olive-brown to black. (1)

Species of Ulocladium resemble those of the genus Alternaria with which they were once included, but Ulocladium, unlike Alternaria, do not produce alternariols, tenuazonic acid, altersolanols, or macrosporin. (2)

It is possible that Ulocladium chartatum is commonly misidentified as Alternaria alternata in commercial microbiology laboratories. (1)

Together with Alternaria and Stemphylium, it is considered one of the most common mould allergens in the United States. (Hoffman p109, cited in 3)

A number of aerobiological studies have demonstrated the presence of Ulocladium species in various locations. In a study in Jordan, a total of 735 mould and 274 yeast colony-forming units (CFU) were collected and assigned to 35 genera and 59 species. The highest total colony count was that of Cladosporium (29.1%), followed by Fusarium (20%), Alternaria (7.7%), Ulocladium (6.5%), Penicillium (4.2%) and then Aspergillus (3.6%). Although other prominent moulds peaked at various times of the year, Ulocladium showed almost the same abundance from March to June, and again in September and December. (4)

In a Turkish study of several child day-care centres in the city of Edirne, 30 microfungal genera were isolated, including Ulocladium. (5)

Ulocladium has also been found in dust from low-income, inner-city public housing developments. Although Alternaria antigen was found in all bed dust samples regardless of season, culturable Alternaria, Ulocladium, Curvularia, Epicoccum, and Stemphylium were only found in 50%, 35%, 6%, 11%, and 0% of bed samples respectively. The authors concluded that exposure to Alternaria antigens and allergens can occur even in the absence of culturable Alternaria or its cross-reactive genera (the implication being, therefore, that this may also apply to Ulocladium). (6)

In a study of airborne fungi spores of indoor air in 49 houses in the city of Santa Fe in Argentina, the 13 dominant genera were: Cladosporium (58.90%), Alternaria (8.68%), Epicoccum (5.74%), Fusarium (5.37%), Curvularia (3.50%), Acremonium (1.27%), Drechslera (1.26%), Penicillium (1.25%), Aspergillus (1.14%), Mucor (0.61%), Ulocladium (0.57%), Nigrospora (0.48%), and Chrysosporium (0.42%); and yeast (3.74%), whose percentage presence varied throughout the year. (7)

In Denmark, a study of 23 mould-infected buildings found that the most frequent mould genera encountered were Penicillium (68%) and Aspergillus (56%), followed by Chaetomium (22%), Ulocladium (21%), Stachybotrys (19%) and Cladosporium (15%). Penicillium chrysogenum, Aspergillus versicolor, and Stachybotrys chartarum were the most frequently-occurring species. (8)

Ulocladium (U. atrum) has also been isolated from air conditioners. (9)

Allergen Description

No allergens have been characterised.

Ulo c 1, an Alt a 1-related allergen, has been inferred from a study, but has not been characterised. (10)

Potential Cross-Reactivity

No studies have evaluated the cross-reactive potential of Ulocladium chartarum. However, as U. chartarum is related to Alternaria, cross-reactivity is likely. (10, 11) In a study that assessed whether the major allergen from Alternaria alternata, (Alt a 1) contributes to cross-reactivity, the authors reported that Alt a 1-equivalent allergens were expressed in other members of the Pleosporaceae family, which includes Ulocladium. (12)

Clinical Experience

IgE-mediated reactions

Anecdotal evidence suggests that Ulocladium chartarum induces symptoms of asthma, allergic rhinitis and hypersensitivity pneumonitis in sensitised individuals. However, no studies have been reported to date; it is possible that the allergy occurs more frequently than has been reported.

A 48-year-old male developed hypersensitivity pneumonitis as a result of the U. chartarum-related species Ulocladium botrytis and the Phoma spp. present in the saxophone he played as a hobby. Both moulds were detected in the saxophone. Precipitating antibodies to these moulds were present in his serum. An additional study confirmed the frequent colonisation of saxophones with potentially pathogenic moulds, such as Fusarium spp., Penicillium spp., and Cladosporium spp. (13)

A study conducted in three different cities in Saudi Arabia evaluating allergenic capability and pollen and spores correlated with patients' symptoms, found that in the fungal spores group Cladosporium, Smuts spores, coloured basidiospores, Alternaria, Ulocladium and Drechslera were the dominant types. (14)

Other reactions

Ulocladium may result in opportunistic infections such as in chronic wounds. (15) It is also a causative of non-dermatophytic filamentous fungi in onychomycosis. (16) Ulocladium chartarum has been described as resulting in cutaneous granulomas in a 58-year-old woman. The authors suggested that immunosuppression was a priming condition. (17) Similarly, this organism caused cutaneous mycoses in an immunosuppressed heart transplant recipient. (18)

The related species Ulocladium atrum resulted in keratitis in a 43-year-old man. No predisposing cause was found. (19)

U. chartarum may cause human disease on rare occasions. Ulocladium spp. may cause phaeohyphomycosis and, particularly, subcutaneous infections. (1)

 

Compiled by Dr Harris Steinman

References

  1. Ulocladium. http://www.doctorfungus.org/thefungi/Ulocladium.php. Accessed 10 February 2011.
  2. Andersen B, Hollensted M. Metabolite production by different Ulocladium species. Int J Food Microbiol. 2008;126(1-2):172-9.
  3. Al-Doory Y, Domson JF. Eds. Mould Allergy. Philadelphia PA: Lea & Febiger;1984:287.
  4. Abu-Dieyeh M, Barham R, Abu-Elteen K, Al-Rashidi R, Shaheen I. Seasonal variation of fungal spore populations in the atmosphere of Zarqa area, Jordan. Aerobiologia 2010;26(4):263-76.
  5. Aydogdu H, Asan A. Airborne fungi in child day care centers in Edirne City, Turkey. Environ Monit Assess 2008;147(1-3):423-44.
  6. Peters JL, Muilenberg ML, Rogers CA, Burge HA, Spengler JD. Alternaria measures in inner-city, low-income housing by immunoassay and culture-based analysis. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol 2008;100(4):364-9.
  7. Basilico Mde L, Chiericatti C, Aringoli EE, Althaus RL, Basilico JC. Influence of environmental factors on airborne fungi in houses of Santa Fe City, Argentina. Sci Total Environ 2007;376(1-3):143-50.
  8. Gravesen S, Nielsen PA, Iversen R, Nielsen KF. Microfungal contamination of damp buildings--examples of risk constructions and risk materials. Environ Health Perspect 1999;107 Suppl 3:505-8.
  9. Bagy MM, Gohar YM. Mycoflora of air-conditioners dust from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. J Basic Microbiol 1988;28(9-10):571-7.
  10. Hong SG, Cramer RA, Lawrence CB, Pryor BM. Alt a 1 allergen homologs from Alternaria and related taxa: analysis of phylogenetic content and secondary structure. Fungal Genet Biol 2005;42(2):119-29.
  11. Schmechel D, Green BJ, Blachere FM, Janotka E, Beezhold DH. Analytical bias of cross-reactive polyclonal antibodies for environmental immunoassays of Alternaria alternata. J Allergy Clin Immunol 2008;121(3):763-8.
  12. Saenz-de-Santamaria M, Postigo I, Gutierrez-Rodriguez A, Cardona G, Guisantes JA, Asturias J, Martinez J. The major allergen of Alternaria alternata (Alt a 1) is expressed in other members of the Pleosporaceae family. Mycoses 2006;49(2):91-5.
  13. Metzger F, Haccuria A, Reboux G, Nolard N, Dalphin JC, De Vuyst P. Hypersensitivity pneumonitis due to molds in a saxophone player. Chest 2010;138(3):724-6.
  14. Hasnain SM, Fatima K, Al-Frayh A, Al-Sedairy ST. One-Year pollen and spore calendars of Saudi Arabia Al-Khobar, Abha and Hofuf. Aerobiologia 2005;21(3):241-7.
  15. Dowd SE, Delton Hanson J, Rees E, Wolcott RD, Zischau AM, Sun Y, White J, Smith DM, Kennedy J, Jones CE. Research survey of fungi and yeast in polymicrobial infections in chronic wounds. J Wound Care 2011;20(1):40-7.
  16. Hilmioglu-Polat S, Metin DY, Inci R, Dereli T, Kilinç I, Tümbay E. Non-dermatophytic molds as agents of onychomycosis in Izmir, Turkey - a prospective study. Mycopathologia 2005;160(2):125-8.
  17. Altmeyer P, Schon K. Cutaneous mold fungus granuloma from Ulocladium chartarum. [German] Hautarzt 1981;32(1):36-8.
  18. Durán MT, Del Pozo J, Yebra MT, Crespo MG, Paniagua MJ, Cabezón MA, Guarro J. Cutaneous infection caused by Ulocladium chartarum in a heart transplant recipient: case report and review. Acta Derm Venereol 2003;83(3):218-21.
  19. Badenoch PR, Halliday CL, Ellis DH, Billing KJ, Mills RA. Ulocladium atrum keratitis. J Clin Microbiol 2006;44(3):1190-3.

 

As in all diagnostic testing, the diagnosis is made by the physican based on both test results and the patient history.