College of Biomedical Sciences faculty studiesthe respiratory health of Puerto Ricans in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria

The research group of Dr. Felix E. Rivera-Mariani, Assistant Professor and Academic Coordinator in the College of Biomedical Sciences, is collaborating with the University of Puerto Rico, the University of Texas-Austin and the Interamerican University in Puerto Rico in a recently-funded project (through a Time-Sensitive grant) by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences to address the respiratory health of occupants of flooded homes in the aftermath of hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.

The specific aims of this project are to:

I) Use molecular and culturing techniques to characterize the fungal communities present inside and outside of water damaged and non-flooded (control) homes in Puerto Rico following hurricane Maria, and determine the change in these communities during the first two years following the hurricane.

II) Evaluate the pro-inflammatory potential of indoor air samples collected from the water-damaged homes through quantitative assessment of induced pro-inflammatory cytokines in peripheral human blood and compare these levels to those in non-flooded (control) study homes and outdoor air.

III) Determine the relationships between occupant respiratory health and home characteristics including flood damage as well as the indoor fungal community and pro-inflammatory potential of dust in the homes. 

Aim II of the project will be performed, in its totality, at Larkin University. Findings from this study will provide key information to develop effective mitigation strategies in the aftermath of atmospheric phenomena such as in hurricanes and flooding events. For more information on this project, please contact Dr. Rivera-Mariani directly (

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