The researchers found fungi on the surfaces of the microplastics. They are confident that this could be the cause of the growth of fungal infections around the world.
Scientists have noticed that numerous species of pathogenic fungi are finding new habitats on microplastic particles in the soil. They can be one of the reasons for the increase in the number of fungal infections. Researchers in Germany analyzed fungal growths from soil samples taken near settlements in western Kenya.
This study is the first to study fungal communities on microplastic particles in soil. Many of the detected species belong to the groups of fungi that are pathogenic for plants, animals and humans. Pathogenic micro-fungi are able to colonize the surfaces of microplastic particles due to their characteristic adhesive lifestyle. In addition, they are able to withstand strong solar radiation and the heat they are exposed to on the soil surface.
“We observed all stages of fungal biofilm formation on microplastic particles extracted from soil samples. At the same time, we were able to show that mushrooms not only grow, but also multiply in the so-called plastisphere. The data support the hypothesis that fungi systematically colonize microplastics in the soil. Moreover, they serve as evidence that microplastics in the soil accumulate certain types of pathogenic fungi: some species that are dangerous to humans, including black fungus and cryptococcal yeasts, are present on the surface of microplastic particles in higher concentrations than in the surrounding soil ”, – noted by the researchers.
They used imaging techniques such as scanning electron microscopy and confocal laser scanning microscopy to study microplastic particles. Analysis of metabarcoding showed that the number of species on microplastic particles was different than in soil samples. “Thus, the results of our study support the assumption that specialized fungal communities are formed on microplastic particles, which are significantly different from the fungal communities in the surrounding soil,” the researchers added.
The researchers noted that their discovery indicates the urgency of the problem in tropical regions, where the level of fungal infections is already high. At the same time, the growth of fungal infections is observed all over the world, but measures for waste management are required to stop this growth, they are sure.