Molecular tools for the study of fungal aerosols

Authors: Mbareche, Hamza
Advisor: Bilodeau, GuillaumeDuchaine, Caroline
Abstract: Since the rapid development of high-throughput sequencing methods in molecular ecology, fungi have been the underdogs of the microbial world, especially in bioaerosol studies. Particularly, studies describing fungal exposure in different occupational environments have been limited by traditional culture methods that underestimate the broad spectrum of fungi present in the air. There are potential risks in the human inhalation of fungal spores in an occupational scenario where the quantity and diversity of fungi is high. Although some health problems are already known to be associated with fungal exposure in certain work environments, the risk may be underestimated due to the methods used. Applying high-throughput sequencing in soil samples has helped the explanation of the fungal role in ecosystems. However, the literature is not decisive in terms of the genomic region to use as target for the enrichment and sequencing of fungi. The present thesis deals with the challenge of determining which region from the two universally used regions, ITS1 and ITS2, is best suited for study of fungal aerosols. In tandem with this challenge came another of addressing the loss of fungal cells during the centrifugation of liquid impaction air samples for purposes of concentration. This thesis describes a new filtration-based method to circumvent such losses during centrifugation. These two challenges represent the first part of the thesis, which focuses on methodology development. In synopsis, the treatment of air samples prior to DNA extraction is considered, along with the identification of the best region to target in amplicon-based high throughput sequencing. In the second part of the thesis, the focus turns to the application of the developed methodology to characterize fungal exposure in three different work environments: compost, biomethanization, and dairy farms. All three are of special interest due to potentially high fungal exposure. Results show that ITS1 outperformed ITS2 in disclosing higher levels of fungal diversity in aerosol samples. Due to complementarity in the taxonomic profiles disclosed by the two regions, the author suggests the use of both regions to cover the greatest possible number of taxa when taxonomy is the main interest of the study. However, ITS1 should be the first choice in other studies, mainly because of the high diversity it reveals and its concordance with results obtained via shotgun metagenomic profiling. In addition, the new filtration-based approach proposed in this work might be the best alternative available for compensating the loss of propagules in centrifugation done prior to DNA extraction. Taken together, these methods allowed a profound characterization of fungal exposure in occupational environments.
Document Type: Thèse de doctorat
Issue Date: 2019
Open Access Date: 31 July 2019
Grantor: Université Laval
Collection:Thèses et mémoires

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