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A Genetic Susceptibility to Mold Injury

One of the major risk factors of mold susceptibility is the Human Leukocyte Antigen, or HLA. The HLA is a family of genes located on chromosome 6, which regulates immune responses. The HLA has associations to over one hundred immune-related diseases including lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and celiac disease.

The association between the HLA gene and mold-injury is an important topic to consider for individuals trying to understand their risk. The HLA susceptibility points to the fact that mold-injury is often an immune-mediated disease with the microbe-contaminated air serving as the environmental trigger for chronic illness.

One of the susceptible HLA markers is present is in about a quarter of the population but is present in about 90% of the patients seeking specialty evaluation for mold-exposure injuries. (In about 10% of patients with Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome, there will not be a sensitive HLA gene present.)

Two of the six HLA families have established associations with the development of immune dysfunction from indoor biological pollutants. Over a dozen gene variants of HLA-DQ and HLA-DR are considered high risk to biological toxins. This increased susceptibility arises from a combination of inefficient toxin-clearance along with an exaggerated immune response to these foreign particles.

This exaggerated response causes an immune condition known as Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome. In my clinic, the average patient has over 20 symptoms, a finding replicated in publications on this topic. The symptoms affect more than one part of the body—and not just the respiratory tract. Most organ systems can be affected including the:

  • Brain — Brain fog, fatigue, memory loss, poor concentration, depression, anxiety, post-traumatic syndrome
  • Sinuses and lungs — Sinusitis, runny nose, shortness of breath, asthma
  • Gut — abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea, new food sensitivities
  • Immune — multiple chemical sensitivities, allergies, mast cell activation, innate immune activation, chronic inflammation, autoimmunity, immune suppression
  • Hormonal — infertility, low growth hormone, low estrogen in women, low testosterone in men, erectile dysfunction
  • Muscle and joint — aches, pain, joint stiffness, muscle tightness.

Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome caused by a damp building can be diagnosed through the following factors:

  • Exposure to a water-damaged building, which is defined as a structure with visible mold, musty odors, or detectable mold on commercial testing.
  • Symptoms that match the known symptom profile for this condition. The most common symptom is fatigue.
  • Signs of this condition includes bloodwork that shows inflammation and hormonal abnormalities. In most (but not all) cases of CIRS, there is an HLA-susceptible gene.
  • Recovery, even partial, with leaving the water-damaged building or with medical treatment for CIRS.

Executive Summary

The HLA is a key gene for regulating susceptibility to immune-mediated disease.

An HLA susceptibility to water-damaged buildings is present in about a quarter of the population.

Chronic respiratory exposure to indoor biological pollutants, including mold, triggers Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome.

Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome affects multiple parts of the body and is diagnosed based on a consideration of multiple factors, such as exposure, reported symptoms, and objective tests.