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.
He explained that biofilms on plumbing surfaces are known to comprise a diverse spectrum of fungi and other microbes. "Based on its very high frequency, it is clear that Fusarium is a ubiquitous component of biofilm microbial communities in plumbing systems," he said. "The adaptations that make Fusarium biofilm growth possible also may facilitate infection of humans.
"For example, in the 2005-06 mycotic keratitis outbreak, it was hypothesized that improper use of a contact lens solution led to reduced efficacy of its antimicrobial properties, which allowed fusaria to establish biofilms on contact lens surfaces and in lens cases," he said.
"The biofilm also may play an important role in established infections in humans by protecting the fungus from drug treatments, since biofilm-phase fusaria tend to be more resistant to antifungal drugs than those growing in a fluid medium."
Of the 59 sequence types identified from sinks in this study, 32 had not been found in previous multilocus sequence typing studies of Fusarium. These novel types included members of four apparently new Fusarium species.
David Geiser, professor of plant pathology and a member of the research team, pointed out that the serious infections caused by fusaria are relatively un
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