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J Clin Microbiol. 2011 Dec;49(12):4264-72. doi: 10.1128/JCM.05468-11. Epub 2011 Oct 5.

Widespread occurrence of diverse human pathogenic types of the fungus Fusarium detected in plumbing drains.

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Department of Plant Pathology, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802, USA.


It has been proposed that plumbing systems might serve as a significant environmental reservoir of human-pathogenic isolates of Fusarium. We tested this hypothesis by performing the first extensive multilocus sequence typing (MLST) survey of plumbing drain-associated Fusarium isolates and comparing the diversity observed to the known diversity of clinical Fusarium isolates. We sampled 471 drains, mostly in bathroom sinks, from 131 buildings in the United States using a swabbing method. We found that 66% of sinks and 80% of buildings surveyed yielded at least one Fusarium culture. A total of 297 isolates of Fusarium collected were subjected to MLST to identify the phylogenetic species and sequence types (STs) of these isolates. Our survey revealed that the six most common STs in sinks were identical to the six most frequently associated with human infections. We speculate that the most prevalent STs, by virtue of their ability to form and grow in biofilms, are well adapted to plumbing systems. Six major Fusarium STs were frequently isolated from plumbing drains within a broad geographic area and were identical to STs frequently associated with human infections.

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