Fungi in sink drains act as 'reservoirs for mold'

hand washing
Credit: Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain

Sinks and P-traps are home to a surprising number of fungal organisms, according to research from the University of Reading.

Five University of Reading , and a Ph.D. student, tested more than 250 restroom sinks for , such as black molds, and relatives of baker's yeast. Each of the sinks had a very similar community of yeasts and molds, showing that sinks in use in public environments share a role as reservoirs of fungal organisms.

The findings are published in Environmental DNA.

Dr. Soon Gweon led the project. He said, "We spend 90% of our time indoors so we are exposed to fungi in our homes and workplaces. For most people, this isn't a problem, but for those who are immunocompromised, certain can cause serious infections.

"It isn't a big surprise to find fungi in a warm, wet . But sinks and P-traps have thus far been overlooked as potential reservoirs of these micro-organisms. This could be a really important finding for those who are trying to help immunocompromised people avoid infections by some of the opportunistic pathogens that may be lurking in sinks, such as Fusarium."

The technique the students used to identify organisms gave them the broader families represented. Further studies will look in detail at exactly which species are present and will identify potential disease-causing fungi.

Zoe Withey, the University of Reading Ph.D. student involved in the project, said, "It has been great to give undergraduate students a real-life hands-on experience of environmental microbiology. And the fact that we found interesting results, worthy of a peer-reviewed publication, is an experience that many students won't have until their Ph.D. studies, or beyond."

The types of fungi that live in sinks can tolerate high temperatures, low pH (acidic), and low nutrients. Some will even use detergents, found in soap, as a source of carbon-rich food.

There was no difference observed between male and female restrooms. In fact the 250 sinks tested, all had a very similar population of fungi present.

Dr. Gweon said, "Although these findings don't present a health concern in the environment we are in, were the location a hospital or care home, with many immunocompromised people, this finding could point to a serious risk to health.

"We would like to see cleaning protocols developed that can address the colonization of sinks and P-traps, particularly in environments where many people will use a single sink."

More information: Zoe Withey et al, Mycobial community assemblages in sink drains across a university campus, Environmental DNA (2022). DOI: 10.1002/edn3.375

Citation: Fungi in sink drains act as 'reservoirs for mold' (2022, December 1) retrieved 31 January 2023 from
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.

Explore further

Researchers propose ectomycorrhizal fungi's role be integrated into carbon accounting


Feedback to editors