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South African Journal of Science

Print version ISSN 0038-2353

Abstract

POHL, C.H. et al. The diversity of culturable airborne fungi in an active South African gold mine. S. Afr. j. sci. [online]. 2007, vol.103, n.7-8, pp. 277-278. ISSN 0038-2353.

Several studies have been conducted on the presence and diversity of airborne fungal spores in residential and occupational areas. This is the first investigation on this topic in the mining environment. The impact of fungi-especially as opportunistic pathogens-on their health and productivity needs to be assessed, considering the compromised health of a large number of HIV-infected miners in South Africa. Accordingly, the aim of this study was to determine the abundance of fungal spores as well as the diversity of culturable airborne fungi in an active gold mine. The results indicate that three of the sampled sites in the mine contain abundant numbers of culturable airborne fungi. The first site was next to an auxiliary extraction fan, which could act as an accumulator for airborne fungal spores from the rest of the mine. The two other sites had high human activity, disturbances from which may contribute to an elevated fungal load in the air. The presence of timber supports at one site may serve as a growth substrate for several fungal genera. The diversity of filamentous fungal genera increased from outside the mine to deeper into the mine, whereas the diversity of yeast genera followed an opposite trend, with no yeasts detected deep in the mine. Although most of the isolates identified are not pathogens, they could still have a negative impact (either as opportunistic pathogens or allergens) on workers, especially immunocompromised persons if exposed to them for prolonged periods.

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