Knowledge and regulation on fungal contamination of sand and water: Progress report and perspectives


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Fungal flora in coastal/inland beach sand and recreational water is a neglected field of study, despite its potential impact on human health. A joint International Society for Human and Animal Mycology/European Confederation for Medical Mycology (ISHAM/ECMM) working group was formed in 2019 with the task to set up a vast international initiative aimed at studying the fungal contamination of beaches and bathing waters. Here we review the importance of the topic, and list the main results and achievements from 12 scientific publications. Fungal contamination exists at different levels, and the genera most frequently found were Aspergillus spp., Candida spp., Fusarium spp., and Cryptococcus spp., both in sand and in water. A site-blind median was found to be 89 colony-forming units of fungi per gram of sand in coastal/inland freshwaters. This threshold has been used for the sand quality criterion of the blue flag in Portugal. Additionally, our data were considered pivotal and therefore used for the first inclusion of fungi as a biological taxon of interest in water quality and sand monitoring recommendations of the World Health Organization's new guidelines on recreational water quality (Vol.1-Chap7). The findings of the consortium also suggest how environmental conditions (climate, salinity, soil pH, nitrogen, etc.) influence microbial communities in different regions, and that yeast species like Candida glabrata, Clavispora lusitaniae, and Meyerozyma guilliermondii have been identified as potential fungal indicators of fecal contamination. Climate change and natural disasters may affect fungal populations in different environments, and because this is still a field of study under exploration, we also propose to depict the future challenges of research and unmet needs.

Original languageEnglish
JournalMedical Mycology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 27 Jan 2024
Externally publishedYes


  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Sand
  • Environmental Monitoring/methods
  • Research Report
  • Water Microbiology
  • Yeasts
  • Feces/microbiology


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