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Scientists discover toxic dishwasher fungus

Ann Oro/FlickrOnce rare, a potentially deadly fungus has established a new home in dishwashers.

Once rarely found in nature, the potentially deadly black yeast fungi have begun to expand their territory. 

And the new frontier could be your kitchen.

A team of European scientists sampled nearly 190 dishwashers in family homes around the world. They found black yeasts living on 62 percent of the rubber seals surrounding the dishwasher door.

The study appears in the journal Fungal Biology.

According to the researchers, black yeasts are “extremophile” fungi, which means they thrive in extreme temperatures and conditions.

The high heat, harsh detergents and humidity provided by dishwashers, coffee machines and washing machines provide just the right touch of comfort for these deadly fungi.

"The discovery of this widespread presence of extremophilic fungi in some of our common household appliances suggests that these organisms have embarked on an extraordinary evolutionary process that could pose a significant risk to human health in the future," said the authors.

The yeasts, also known as Exophiala dermatitidis and E. phaeomuriformis, have been associated with illness and death in people.

According to the researchers, the fungi are especially partial to the lungs, so people with cystic fibrosis are most at risk.

One of the authors, Nina Gunde-Cimerman, a microbiologist at the University of Ljubljana in Slovenia, told The Daily Telegraph one thing not mentioned in the report was that "we tested the dishes after they had been cleaned in these dishwashers and they were full of this black yeast, so too the cutlery that you put in your mouth. We just don't know how serious this could be."

The researchers say other fungi species also were found in the rubber seal.

And they warned that "further research is imperative," given the ubiquity of dishwashers and their concern about increased fungus-human interactions.

Filed under: Environment, Daily Report

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