Ruth A. Gault Ph.D.: Biography/Education

Research Scientist

Department of Microbiology and Immunology


  • 1997: Ph.D. Cell and Molecular Biology, University of Nevada, Reno
  • 1987: BS Microbiology, California State University, Sacramento
  • 1987: BA Chemistry, California State University, Sacramento
  • 1975: AA Equine Reproduction, Ohio State University


Dr. Gault's research experience covers diverse areas of microbiology from vaccine development to cancer immunotherapies. Dr. Gault is one of the undergraduate instructors for the Molecular Microbiology and Immunology major. Her current interest involves identifying the endemic fungal species inhabiting the Great Basin of Nevada. This research is incorporated into the Introduction to Microbiology course and involves undergraduate students in experimental design, data collection and analysis.

Recently, Dr. Gault has collaborated with Dr. Mary Beth Hogan (University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine Department of Pediatrics) and Dr. Brett Green (CDC-NIOS-HELD) to investigate the influence of evaporative cooling vs. central AC on the fungal burden in homes with children with asthma and/or allergies. This basic science research is oriented to the identification of native mold species in the Great Basin is designed to have immediate translational application into clinical Allergy practice. This is important as allergic sensitization to mold is a marker of asthma severity in children.

Arid climates limit the growth of mold and dust mites, which prevents them from colonizing in desert homes. A recent study established that skin test reactivity to mold and dust mite allergens is more prevalent for desert dwellers cooling their homes with evaporative (swamp) coolers versus those using central (AC) or no cooling (Prasad, Hogan, Peele, & Wilson). Elevated humidity allows for the growth of mold and dust-mites but this has not been evaluated in houses cooled by evaporative coolers. In a 2012 study by Feng, Yang, and Zhua, dust mite allergens were studied in homes with varying humidity. The homes with elevated humidity were found to be the most influential factor for increased allergen levels of dust mites. Evaporative coolers may likely increase indoor humidity and possibly show a strong association between mold and dust mite sensitization and also symptom severity.

Several studies have shown an association between asthma symptom severity and indoor mold and dust mite sensitization but not in arid climates such as the Great Basin. In a recent 2012 study by Gent, Kezik, and Hill et. al. asthma symptom severity was linked with mold and dust mite sensitization. The study determined that those children that were sensitized to the fungi Penicillium were twice as likely to report increased days of wheezing, persistent cough, and a higher asthma severity score. Those children who were also sensitized to the dust mite Der p1 showed a 47 percent increased likelihood of using a rescue inhaler during the week. The association between cooling devices (evaporative, or air-conditioner), mold and dust mite sensitization, and symptom severity among asthma and allergenic patients has not been studied in the Great Basin but is needed.

This study proposes to establish the molds inhabiting the Great Basin outdoors and in homes with air conditioning, evaporative coolers and no cooling. In addition, the presence of dust mites in bedrooms of homes with evaporative coolers will be established. Both of these species are humidity dependent and evaporative coolers add substantially to the home humidity in a seasonal fashion. This novel study will also establish if the presence of these allergens and sensitization patterns to allergens is associated with disease severity in pediatric children with allergic rhinitis and asthma living in the Great Basin. Knowledge of molds in the Great Basin and their impact on disease severity would allow physicians to plan better medication delivery and allergen avoidance recommendations for children with asthma and allergic rhinitis.

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