My dishwasher is trying to kill me

Dishwashers are a habitat for fungi. Image: Shutterstock

A pathogenic fungus has found a home in household appliances, according to researchers.

Researchers from the University of Ljubljana, University of Amsterdam, the Research Center for Medical Mycology in Beijing and the Sun Yat-sen University in China have suggested that the extreme conditions inside our appliances create perfect habitats for extremotolerant fungi. And some of them are potentially harmful to our health.

Dishwashers, washing machines and coffee makers all have one thing in common- a hot, moist interior, providing a man-made niche for the fungi. Dishwashers, for example, produce temperatures between 60° to 80° Celsius and use high concentrations of salt and aggressive detergents during each cycle.

The researchers took samples from 189 private homes, including seven from Australia, in over 101 cities on six different continents. The study, published in the British Mycological Society journal, Fungal Biology, found that 62 per cent of the dishwashers contained fungi, such as species from genera Aspergillus, Candida, Magnusiomyces, Fusarium, Penicillium and Rhodotorula on the rubber band in the door.

56 per cent of the affected dishwashers were host to the polyextremotolerant black yeasts Exophiala dermatitidis and E. phaeomuriformis. Both of these species demonstrated a tolerance to heat, salt, detergents and both acid and alkaline water- a combination of extreme properties that has not been previously observed in fungi.

Exophiala dermatitidis is described as an agent of disease and can cause fatal infections in healthy humans. It is also known for its involvement in pulmonary colonisation of patients with cystic fibrosis.

The presence of these black yeasts within household appliances could mark the beginning of an evolutionary process for the fungi and a new health risk for humans.

Source: Science Daily

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