HLA-DR genetic Testing for Mold: What you Need to Understand 

Genetic testing is definitely a hot topic in the new these days.  I listen to commercials on my car radio for 23 and Me describing the wealth of information available for those wanting to dive deep into the intricacies of their DNA. The only caveat is that you may also discover genetic susceptibilities for chronic illnesses, breast cancer, or diseases, such as Hereditary Thrombophilia, Late-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, etc. The testing companies will accompany results with vague guidance related to risk factors associated with these diseases to offset the shock or to point people in some type of treatment direction.

With regards to mold, there is a lot of information on websites and blogs about HLA-DR testing to determine if you have the genetic pre-disposition to mold sensitivity.  While this genetic evidence can be important for someone who wants to understand the possibilities, it’s value primarily lies in all the information it does not tell you.  For that reason, I believe, its value is limited and sometimes misinterpreted.  The scenario where a patient has symptoms, but a positive test can create expectations and fear of sickness from the “dreaded genotype,” if more information is not sought out.  The information that is most helpful to any mold illness is the testing to determine the presence of mold.

The Human Genome

Structure of a Protein Molecule

I have been directly involved with medical technology since the advent of the Human Genome Project in the early 90s.  Initially, there was no argument that human genetics play a critical role in understanding diseases.  Pharmaceutical and academic researchers believed the cataloguing the genome was the “holy grail” for finding cures for diseases. Over time, it became clear that there were very few diseases related to just one inherited gene. Monogenetic diseases based on a single, inherited gene defect include diseases such as cystic fibrosis, sickle cell anemia,Huntington’s disease, andhemochromatosis. In some cases, a medicine to address the disease was developed and made available.  Some examples of medication developed for from genes include human (protein) deficiencies are recombinant human insulin, recombinant human growth hormone (rHGH), and erythropoietin (EPO).  These human identical proteins are manufactured by inserting genes into human cells that will naturally ‘manufacture’ these proteins in bioreactors.  The process mimics how we humans produce these proteins in our body.

Over time, what became apparently clear to researches, was that most significant diseases with unmet medical needs were polygenetic; meaning there were several genes involved in the disease process for the majority of chronic illnesses. In addition, a clearer understanding that these diseases involved external factors not defined in the genes.  Researchers focused to large, pervasive disease states such as cancer, diabetes, and obesity. There was no debate that diet, exercise, and other environmental factors would contribute to these diseases.

Initially, it was believed that there were approximately 100,000 genes in the human genome. As science progressed, it is now understood that approximately 20,000-25,000 genes encode proteins in humans.  That is 20-25 genes that produce molecules like enzymes and hormones that are the ‘workers’ in our bodies.  Only a select few genetic diseases are treatable with a single protein.

Today, over 2 decades later, modern biology is finally catching up to understand the role and importance of our DNA. There have been many innovations in biological tools used to determine the functions of genes.

Today, human genetics have been contributing factors to advancement has created many new medications.  These proteins or “pills” address a very specific point in the biological disease cascade.  This is analogous to blocking a domino effect applied to diseases.

We see examples of new medications regularly on TV commercials about immunotherapies for cancer that work on specifically on patients who test positive for certain biomarkers of a given disease. (Biomarkers are measurable indicator of some biological state or condition. Biomarkers are often measured and evaluated to examine normal biological processes, pathogenic processes, or pharmacologic responses to a therapeutic intervention.)  In many cases, these the discovery of the genetic markers made development of new medications for diseases possible.  In the of immunotherapy medications, the biomarker can be any measurable substance in an organism whose presence is indicative of some phenomenon such as disease, infection, or environmental exposure.

HLA-DR Genetic Testing for Mold

The human leukocyte antigen (HLA) system or complex is a gene complex encoding the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) proteins in humans. These cell surface proteins are responsible for the regulation of the immune system in humans.  HLA-DR genes tell your body to make antibodies to fight antigens or toxins (mold). Without them, your body could not adequately remove toxins.  Therefore, this inherited gene is believed to be predictive of mold illness susceptibility and Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS).  It has been generally cited that 1 in 4 people have this genetic predisposition to mold illness. (Note: This figure is almost always cited from research done by Dr. Ritchie Shoemaker or Survivingmold.com.  I have not found any publications which replicate this data, which is a complex statistical interpretation of genetics.  There are more than 16 subtypes of HLA genes and order of magnitude of variations, combinations in numerous diseases).  A more relevant statistic is that almost ALL of patients who severely suffer from mold toxicity test positive for the HLA-DR diagnostic.  The test may provide a doctor clues to an understanding of why the patient is sick, leading to a more accurate prognosis.   However, anyone who is exposed to mold can get sick, regardless of diagnostic results. The test is expensive and has limited value in my opinion.

Interpretation of the Diagnostic

The HLA DR diagnostics many limitations in contributing to a mold diagnosis.  Physicians rely on their personal observations and differential diagnosis of symptoms before treating a patient.  If a patient is not presenting obvious symptoms related to mold or if the physician does not consider the patient’s environment in a diagnosis of chronic sinusitis or any other immune deficiency, the test only presents a statistical likelihood that is circumstantial at best and not conclusive.

Regardless of whether a physician knows or does not know of a patient’s genetic predisposition, a detailed medical history, an understanding of the patient’s environment, including a knowledge of the presence of mold on the clothing or at home, and/or testing for antibodies to mold in the patient’s blood, or a positive urine mycotoxin assay are required to make a medical diagnosis.

To Get an HLA DR Diagnostic Test or Not

Whether a person tests positive on an HLA-DR diagnostic or not, if presenting with severe symptoms when exposed to mold, it is because their body is negatively responding to the mold.  Even if a person is not genetically susceptible, other factors can spark a severe immune response to mold, causing inflammation, a toxic reaction, and cognitive, or GI symptoms.  The issue is that, for whatever reason, your body is having trouble identifying and processing mold antigens or toxins.  ‘Why that is’ needs to be explored by you and your doctor.

What ANYONE Can Do to Mitigate the Immune Response to Mold: Adding Another Line of Defense

Sinus Defense is an immune-building homeopathic supplement made of specifically-designed transfer factor.  Transfer Factor is the mechanism that literally transfers immunity from mother to child.  Sinus Defense been designed to aid the body by immediately identifying a large portfolio of mold antigens and other mold-related pathogens, so that the body’s immediate immune response can be more effective at attacking the antigens. The science is that, when antigens are quickly and accurately identified, the T-Cells respond immediately, decreasing inflammation and increasing immune efficacy to the benefit of a patient.  For the body to naturally build a similar immune response to mold antigens would take months.

What is most beneficial with Sinus Defense is that a patient knows relatively quickly whether or not it is helping them.  Patients feel better in days to weeks, versus months to years. Also supplementing with BetaMax 500 (a high-dose, multi-branch Beta Glucan supplement) while taking Sinus Defense provides a “double-whammy” to mold antigens, because the combination increases the number of Macrophages in the system. Macrophages are the immune system’s “garbage eaters” in the blood and come in to “gobble up” or remove the dead antigens from the body. Thus, increasing macrophage numbers while also increasing immune function makes the body’s reaction to mold significantly less inflammatory.

Patients who use Sinus Defense regularly find themselves less reactive to mold exposures, more immune resilient, and with a higher positive response to other mold illness treatments.