Invasive aspergillosis (IA) is an opportunistic fungal infection that mostly occurs in immunocompromised patients, such as those having hematologic malignancy or receiving hematopoietic stem cell transplantation. Inhalation of Aspergillus spores is the main transmission route of IA in immunocompromised patients. Construction work in hospitals is a risk factor for environmental fungalcontamination. We measured airborne fungal contamination and the incidence of IA among immunocompromised patients, and evaluated their correlation with different types of construction works.
Our tertiary hospital in Seoul, Korea underwent facility construction from September 2017 to February 2018. We divided the entire construction period into period 1 (heavier works: demolition and excavation) and period 2 (lighter works: framing, interior designing, plumbing, and finishing). We conducted monthly air sampling for environmental spore surveillance in three hematologic wards. We evaluated the incidence of IA among all immunocompromised patients hospitalized in the three hematologic wards (2 adult wards and 1 pediatric ward) during this period. IA was categorized into proven, probable, and possible aspergillosis based on the revised European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer/Mycosis Study Group (EORTC/MSG) criteria.
A total of 15 patients was diagnosed with proven (1 case), probable (8 cases), or possible (6 cases) hospital-acquired IA during period 1. In period 2, 14 patients were diagnosed with either proven (1 case), probable (10 cases), or possible (3 cases) hospital-acquired IA. Total mold and Aspergillus spp. spore levels in the air tended to be higher in period 1 (p = 0.06 and 0.48, respectively). The incidence rate of all IA by the EORTC/MSG criteria was significantly higher in period 1 than in period 2 (1.891 vs. 0.930 per 1000 person-days, p = 0.05).
Airborne fungal spore levels tended to be higher during the period with heavier construction works involving demolition and excavation, during which the incidence of IA was significantly higher as well. We recommend monitoring airborne fungal spore levels during construction periods in hospitals with immunocompromised patients. Subsequently, the effect of airborne fungal spore level monitoring in reducing hospital-acquired IA should be evaluated.