To assess the degree of fungal contamination in hospital environments and to evaluate the ability of air conditioning systems to reduce such contamination.
We monitored airborne microbial concentrations in various environments in 10 hospitals equipped with air conditioning. Sampling was performed with a portable Surface Air System impactor with replicate organism detection and counting plates containing a fungus-selective medium. The total fungal concentration was determined 72-120 hours after sampling. The genera most involved in infection were identified by macroscopic and microscopic observation.
The mean concentration of airborne fungi in the set of environments examined was 19 ± 19 colony-forming units (cfu) per cubic meter. Analysis of the fungal concentration in the different types of environments revealed different levels of contamination: the lowest mean values (12 ± 14 cfu/m3) were recorded in operating theaters, and the highest (45 ± 37 cfu/m3) were recorded in kitchens. Analyses revealed statistically significant differences between median values for the various environments. The fungal genus most commonly encountered was Penicillium, which, in kitchens, displayed the highest mean airborne concentration (8 ± 2.4 cfu/m3). The percentage (35%) of Aspergillus documented in the wards was higher than that in any of the other environments monitored.
The fungal concentrations recorded in the present study are comparable to those recorded in other studies conducted in hospital environments and are considerably lower than those seen in other indoor environments that are not air conditioned. These findings demonstrate the effectiveness of air-handling systems in reducing fungal contamination.
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