Assured Bio Labs’ scientists have identified a slime mold growing on drywall. A slime mold is not a true mold nor a fungus, instead it is a protozoan, and related to the amoeba. The scientific term for the slime mold is myxomycete (Mix-oh-My-seat). In fact, the vein-like network growing on the drywall paper is the plasmodial stage of the slime mold’s life cycle. The plasmodium is comprised of millions of amoeba that feed on microscopic bacteria. Moreover, the plasmodium requires extremely wet conditions to grow, because the bacteria it feeds on proliferate on water-soaked materials. When conditions become dry and the bacteria population dwindles, the plasmodium will form mold-like structures. The process requires that the individual amoeba swarm together and differentiate to resemble a mold. Some amoeba become the stalks, but others form the spores, which will be carried on air currents to start the life cycle anew. Recent research suggests competition between the amoeba, where the winners become spores and the losers waste away as non-reproductive stalks. However, this slime mold never had the chance to differentiate, and will never form spores. It was collected by a mold inspector and the drywall dried out to rapidly for differentiation to occur. Instead it will be ever preserved as a plasmodium. Finding slime molds in a built-environment indicates water intrusion. Although the slime mold is fairly innocuous to humans, its spores are small and allergenic. Prolonged exposure may compromise occupants’ health and increase the risk for respiratory issues including allergic reactions, sinusitis and asthma.
About the Author: Edward Sobek, PhD, MBA
Dr. Edward Sobek has 25 years of experience in microbiology and indoor air quality. He has a master’s degree in Plant Pathology from Iowa State University, where he studied Fusarium disease transmission in field crops. He received his doctorate degree from Texas Tech University where he studied the ecology of desert molds (mitosporic fungi). He obtained his Executive MBA in Healthcare leadership from the University of Tennessee's presidious Haslam School of Business in 2016. Dr. Sobek is an active researcher. He holds the appointment of Senior Research Scientist with the University of Tennessee’s Center for Environmental Biotechnology CEB and has developed and patented several mold detection technologies. He is a sought after speaker on the scientific circuit by educational and governmental organizations that are anxious to learn how to use DNA to detect mold in residential and commercial properties. He has also published a variety of scientific papers, book chapters, white papers, and trade articles for the IAQ industry.