Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

Disease-causing fungi prevalent in sink drains, study finds (but serious fusaria caused infections are rare)

The Fusarium species cultured here are commonly found in sink drains. A new study found that about 70 percent of Fusarium samples taken from drains belong to one of the six genetic types most often associated with human infections.

The Fusarium species cultured here are commonly found in sink drains. A new study found that about 70 percent ofFusarium samples taken from drains belong to one of the six genetic types most often associated with human infections.

From the 21 December 2011 Penn State press release

 A study examining the prevalence of the fungus Fusarium in bathroom sink drains suggests that plumbing systems may be a common source of human infections.

In the first extensive survey of its kind, researchers in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences sampled nearly 500 sink drains from 131 buildings — businesses, homes, university dormitories and public facilities — in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida and California.

They analyzed fungal DNA to compare the spectrum of Fusarium species and sequence types found in drains with those recovered from human infections.

The study identified at least one Fusarium isolate in 66 percent of the drains and in 82 percent of the buildings. About 70 percent of those isolates came from the six sequence types of Fusarium most frequently associated with human infections….

Fusarium may be best known for causing a variety of diseases in agricultural crops. In Pennsylvania, Fusariumdiseases of grains and greenhouse crops are of particular concern. Fusarium species also produce mycotoxins in association with plants, causing a direct health threat to animals and humans that eat the plants.

Some species of Fusarium also cause opportunistic and sometimes fatal infections in humans, typically entering the body through wounds or trauma, via catheters and intravenous devices or by introduction of a biofilm to the eye. While relatively rare, Fusarium infections can be difficult to treat because of the organism’s resistance to many antifungal drugs. Those most at risk are individuals with weak or compromised immune systems.

In one high-profile case, Fusarium was found to have caused a widely publicized 2005-06 outbreak of fungal keratitis — infection of the cornea — among contact-lens wearers.

“In the recent outbreaks of fungal keratitis in Southeast Asia and North America connected to contact-lens use, plumbing systems were the main environmental sources of the most frequent Fusarium species and sequence types associated with eye infections,” Short said….

David Geiser, professor of plant pathology and a member of the research team, pointed out that the serious infections caused by fusaria are relatively uncommon and that these fungi may even play positive roles in plumbing systems. But he said the study provides the strongest evidence to date supporting an epidemiological link between human fusarioses and plumbing systems. [Flahiff’s emphasis]

Read the entire press release here

 

 

December 31, 2011 - Posted by | Consumer Health, Public Health | , , ,

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