Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Phoma spp.

The organism, Phoma spp., is a member of the coelomycete (EmLab P&K) fungi that produce spores inside a pycnidia.  The spores are produced inside this hollow structure with an opening on top in an arrangement similar to a kiwi fruit or a pomegranate.

In buildings, this organism will often grow on slab on grade carpet with moisture problems.  It is a plant pathogen in tropical to temperate climates.  The single celled spores are unremarkable in structure and not differentiated on Air-o-cell cassette samples. The organism is may be allergenic. 

The organism grows best on media with higher water activity such as MEA.  It does not grow well on DG-18. 

The organism, Phoma spp. growth in MEA - N. Carlson
Surface of Phoma spp. shot from above - N. Carlson
Microscopic photo of Phoma spp. at lower magnification - N. Carlson
Low magnification Phoma spp. - N. Carlson
High magnification microscopic photo of Phoma spp. some species produce Alternaria spp. like spores. - N. Carlson

Phoma - Spirit of the Moon - Technomusic-  No relation to the fungal organism - 7.5 minutes

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Scopulariopsis spp.

The organism, Scopulariopsis spp. looks microsopically similar to Penicillium spp. and Paecilomyces spp. The tan colony color differentiates the organism from most Penicillium spp.  The Paecilomyces spp. colonies are typically spreading and not as heaped as the Scopulariopsis spp. colonies. The Paecilomyces spp. spores are often comma shaped.

The mature spores of Scopulariopsis spp. are often rough.  The spores are produced in chains from a conidiophore (Fungi Online).  The base of the spore producing structure forms a ring as each spore is produces.  One end of the spore is flat with the other end round.
The spores can occasionally be distinguished between Asp/Pen spores on an Air-o-cell cassette sample if the spores are in chains.  The rough spore plus the flat point of attachment help in identification.  The spores are approximately 3 to 8 microns in diameter and will deposit in all areas of the respiratory tract.

Special note: The organism is capable of converting the arsenic found wallpaper covered with Paris Green into arsine gas.  In Italy during the 1890's over 1,000 children's deaths were linked to a combination of Paris Green wallpaper and mildew.  (History Magazine)  The deaths stopped once the wallpaper was removed.  Mildew in this sense was used as a term to describe mold in general and not a particular type of fungus also known as mildew.

Scopulariopsis spp. - N. Carlson

Scopulariopsis spp. line drawing - N. Carlson

What does Scopulariopsis mean - 30 sec.

Scopulariopsis spp. - 2 min.  Health Homes Inc.

Pithomyces spp.

Spores of Pithomyces spp. are fairly common in outdoor air samples.  The spores can sometimes be differentiated from Ulocladium spp. as the spores have a definite attachment point with a small transparent frill at one end.  The other end of the spore is round.  As the spores mature the exterior becomes roughened with small spines. 

The organism will grow on textiles, paper and wood products inside buildings.  It will grow on dead trees, and dead grass in the outdoors.  It can cause facial eczema in ruminants eating contaminated grass. 

The barrel shaped spores are approximately 15 to 25 microns in length and 10 to 15 microns in width.  These larger sized spores will deposit in the upper respiratory tract.   

A photo of Pithomyces spp. at various stages of growth on a culture plate - N. Carlson

Mature dark colored spiny Pithomyces spp. spores in culture - N. Carlson
Pithomyces spp. from an Air-o-cell cassette spore trap - The spore is dessicated (dried out ).  It looks similar in color and shape to root beer barrel candy.  - N. Carlson

Pithomyces spp. spore line drawing with frill at the attachment point - N. Carlson

Pithomyces spp. information - 2 min.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Curvularia spp.

Curvularia spp. - This spore typically has three septations (Websters Dictionary) with one middle cell larger than the other three when viewed from the proper orientation.  The organism is readily grown on culture plates and easily viewed using an spore trace sample.  Because the spore is often greater than 20 microns in length it will deposit in the upper respiratory tract. Due to the large size it also falls out in the air rather quickly and requires mechanical disturbance  to keep it in the air.   It is not uncommon to find it in an outdoor air sample when snow cover is not present.  

The organisms grows on cellulose based interior surfaces with water damage. Outdoors it grows on vegetation and decaying vegetation. 

The colony growth on culture plates is somewhat similar to Alternaria spp.  Viewing the colony under higher magnification will easily allow differential identification.  It grows well on malt extract agar.

Single Curvularia spp. spore - approx. 30 microns in length - N.Carlson
Production of Curvularia spp. spores at various stages of maturity. An air bubble is often present in one of the cells. - N. Carlson
Multiple Curvularia spp. spores - Note that there will occasionally be 4 septations or 5 cells in a spore. - N. Carlson

Curvularia spp. growth on culture plate - N. Carlson

Curvularia spp. information from Health Homes - 2 min.

Turning carbon dioxide into stone

Scientific American - Iceland powerplant

An Iceland power plant is turning carbon emissions into stone ( - June 9, 2016.   Recent studies have found that carbon dioxide injected with water into basalt rock formations turns to stone much more quickly than previously thought.  The minerals in the basalt react with the carbon dioxide in the water to form calcium carbonate and other rocks.  The process was over 90% efficient over a 2 year period.  This surprised scientists as they expected the process to take much longer. 

Turning the carbon dioxide into limestone reduces the problems with injecting the carbon dioxide into structures that just capture the gas.  There have been concern over the rapid release of this gas into the atmosphere if there are leaks in the structure.

Downsides: The process resquires heavy use of water and injection the solution is not cheap. Some microbes may produce methane gas as an unintended bi-product of the process.  Seafloor injection of carbon dioxide into basalt or other rock formations may work better.  This eliminates the need for fresh water.  As basalt makes up over 10% of the earth's crust, this may be a process that could work at many locations.

Other research has focused on using the carbon dioxide to speed up the efficiency of algal production of fuel.  Other engineering firms are exploring the use of carbon dioxide for building carbon fiber autobody parts.

Turning carbon dioxide into stone - 1 min. BBC - 2016

MIT grad student studies ophiolite rock structures in Oman, Jordan to understand natural carbon capture.  - 7 min. - 2009

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Electric shock drowning

Electric Shock Drowning - Boat US
Good Morning America reports on the hazards of electroshock drowning.   Electroshock drowning is a  relatively rare event with 15 reported US cases in the past five years.  In freshwater or in low salt water areas along the ocean, An electrical ground fault from a boat attached to a dock can produce an electric current in the water.  A swimmer in the water may conduct the current and be shocked sometimes resulting in death.

Prevention begins with installing Ground Fault Interrupter Outlets at boat docks.  Swimming anywhere near a dock without this circuit poses a potential hazard.  Attempting to rescue a person without shutting off the current may result in additional fatalities or injuries.

Electric Shock Drowning facts - Boat US -3 minutes