Mould played a part in the death of young man, pathologist tells inquest
Mould played a part in the death of a young man in a house his family say was plagued by damp, a pathologist has told an inquest.
Luke Brooks’ parents – Patricia and James – have blamed the mould in the damp property where they lived in Oldham, Greater Manchester, for his death in October 2022.
On Tuesday, pathologist Abdul Ganjifrockwala told an inquest in Rochdale that Mr Brooks, 27, died from acute respiratory distress syndrome which was caused by aspergillus pneumonia.
Dr Ganjifrockwala explained that aspergillus is a type of mould which he found in Mr Brooks’ lungs during the post-mortem examination.
The pathologist was asked by senior coroner Joanne Kearsley whether it was possible to contract pneumonia for other reasons – even if the fungus was present.
The doctor said it was possible but, on the balance of probabilities, he thought the aspergillus was the cause in this case.
He said: “This is because of the presence of the organisms there.
“Had the organisms not been present, this would be bog-standard bronchial pneumonia.”
Ms Kearsley discussed with the pathologist how Mr Brooks’ condition deteriorated in just six days after developing symptoms including a cough, rash and sore throat.
He died in his bedroom after experiencing what his friend described as a seizure, the inquest at Rochdale Coroner’s Court has heard.
Dr Ganjifrockwala said it was possible Mr Brooks’ symptoms were evidence of a viral infection which “could have made his lungs more susceptible to the development of aspergillus infection”.
The coroner asked the pathologist: “On the balance of probabilities, do you still feel aspergillus has had a part in Luke’s death”.
He replied: “I think so, yes.”
Dr Ganjifrockwala admitted that his post-mortem examination findings originally included a further factor contributing to the cause of death which was “heavily mould-infested accommodation”.
But he agreed with the coroner that he had now deferred this conclusion to other experts.
He said: “Yes, solely because they have more experience in this area.”
Mr Brooks’ family believe the mould-infestation in the three-bedroom, end-terrace Huxley Street house he shared with his parents, cousin and a friend caused his death.
On Monday, his mother Patricia Brooks described how their private landlord did not rectify the multiple problems in the property and how she begged Oldham Council to find her family alternative accommodation.
But the inquest also heard how Mr Brooks lived in “squalor” in the bedroom where he spent most of his time, and which he shared with his friend Chris Haycock and their three dogs.
Ms Kearsley is the same coroner who ruled last year that two-year-old Awaab Ishak died in Rochdale from a respiratory condition caused by mould at his home.
Fungus expert Professor Malcolm Richardson told the inquest he agreed that the mould found in Mr Brooks’s lungs was aspergills. But he said the black mould found in the Huxley Street house was mostly penicillium, which is not a pathogen, although it can cause allergic responses in some people.
The professor, who is a consultant clinical scientist in Medical Mycology, said he did tests on the house in April 2023 – six months after Mr Brooks’s death.
He said he found “very, very little” evidence of aspergillus in the house with just one spore found in the bedroom where Mr Brooks died.
Prof Richardson there is more aspergillus in the everyday outdoor environment.
He said this kind of mould is much more common in rotting vegetation and is a hazard for those working in composting or similar activities.
The professor was asked whether it was possible the source of the aspergillus could have been the tobacco and cannabis Mr Brooks was known to smoke, or the food and dust in room.
Prof Richardson said it was impossible to say where the aspergillus had come from.
He also said it was “unfortunate” that samples were not taken in the house at the time of Mr Brooks’s death. But he said it was “hard to believe” that aspergillus was growing in the house at that time.
Prof Richardson said there was no example of the academic literature of aspergillus pneumonia being caused by chronic mould in homes.