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  Harmful Fungus in Sphagnum Moss?
From: "Don Burns"donburns at macconnect.com> on 2001.06.21 at 07:56:43(6780)
In my few years of growing aroids I have periodically heard stories about a harmful
(to humans) fungus that grows and reproduces itself in ground or otherwise virgin
sphagnum. Has anyone else heard these stories or seen written information on
the subject?

Don Burns

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From: "Ron Iles" roniles at eircom.net> on 2001.06.21 at 09:04:34(6797)
Welcome back Don! Hurray!

Rural Ireland is substantially peat bog but I don't know anything about its
fungal pathogens but how about its spores? Bracken is nasty I'm told,
ticks, Lime Disease.

Cheers

Ron

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From: Ron McHatton rmchatton at photocircuits.com> on 2001.06.21 at 12:36:27(6798)
Don:
When the use of sphagnum moss as a potting material for orchids caught
on some 15 years or so ago, one of the first issues to surface was the
purported presence of spores of a fungus which could be contracted by
humans. The physical manifestation of infection is the formation of a
round cyst like object deep within the skin which works its way slowly to
the surface and breaks open releasing spores. These cyst like objects are
typically about half the size of a pinhead or so although in some published
cases they are quite large and apparently bothersome. There was an article
illustrated with pictures published in the American Orchid Society Bulletin
some years ago (if you would like a copy, I could probably locate it).
That article demonstrates being able to culture the spores from virgin as
well as used wet moss. This launched the scare that had a lot of people
sterilizing their moss, working with impermeable gloves and surgical masks
or for some people even respirators around the moss. What wasn't reported
publicly (very well anyway) was subsequent work which demonstrated that the
same fungus can be cultured from anything we use as potting material, even
things like Fafard 3B and Promix. Infection in humans is possible (as far
as I am aware, only through an already existing wound), but it is extremely
rare and apparently not worth the effort worrying about and bottom line is
that you can get the same infection from any material, fir bark, promix,
sphagnum moss, coconut husk chips, etc. I have been growing orchids for
something like 37 years, and I am more worried about the dust from dry
perlite and the little slivers of bark than fungal problems.

Ron McHatton

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From: "Cooper, Susan L." SLCooper at scj.com> on 2001.06.21 at 12:36:47(6799)
I think you are talking about blastomycosis, my brother-in-law's father got
it and was very ill. I don't have any links for it, but you can probably
find info on the internet via a search engine.
Susan Cooper
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From: Douglas Ewing dewing at u.washington.edu> on 2001.06.21 at 12:37:00(6800)
Search for info under the name "Sporotrichosis". The organism involved is
the fungus Sporotrichum schenckii. Infection is through cuts and
abrasions in the skin, small blisters can form. If not treated, can spread
to other organs and become serious disease. My understanding is that it
is easily controlled by anti-biotics , but is often not diagnosed, due to
it's rarity.

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From: Aroideae at aol.com on 2001.06.21 at 13:11:10(6804)
hi don,

yes, there is definitely a fungus associated with sphagnum moss that can
enter the body through wounds or cuts on the hands and under fingernails. it
can also be inhaled and affect the respiratory system. orchid grower are
very familiar with it. it has a name, but i can't remember it. you might
search the american orchid society website and, since you're in miami,
contact some department of tropical diseases down there. a friend of mine
here in tampa was treated for it by the tropical diseases people at
university of south florida. it's apparently a nasty one, this fungus. when
i was growing orchids, i was repeatedly advised to wear gloves and a mask.

hope this helps,
lynn

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From: "Jay Vannini" interbnk at terra.com.gt> on 2001.06.21 at 13:11:23(6805)
Dear Don:

I believe Sporotrichosis is the beast yer wondering about.

It is generally recommended that persons handling sphagnum shud wear rubber
gloves, particularly if they have any nicks or open wounds on your hands or
forearms.

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From: "Cooper, Susan L." SLCooper at scj.com> on 2001.06.21 at 20:16:59(6813)
I have been growing orchids for
something like 37 years, and I am more worried about the dust from dry
perlite and the little slivers of bark than fungal problems.
Ron McHatton

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From: "Bob Bob" metopium at hotmail.com> on 2001.06.21 at 20:17:12(6814)
Hello from the home of Coccidioidomycocis!

Sphagnum moss can cause Sporotrichosis from the Sporothrix fungi, but so can
rotted wood.

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From: Krzysztof Kozminski kk at kozminski.com> on 2001.06.21 at 20:17:27(6815)
On Thu, 21 Jun 2001, Jay Vannini wrote:

> Dear Don:
>
> I believe Sporotrichosis is the beast yer wondering about.
>
> It is generally recommended that persons handling sphagnum shud wear rubber
> gloves, particularly if they have any nicks or open wounds on your hands or
> forearms.

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From: "Julius Boos" ju-bo at email.msn.com> on 2001.06.21 at 20:18:24(6819)
Dear Don

Glad you are back with 'us', buddy!!
I saw this terrible-looking affliction on the hands and especially
under/around the finger nails of an Orchid grower in S. Florida some years
ago, he also grew insect-eating plants. His finger-nails were also
affected, and the open and sort of healing-looking lesions on his fingers
were NOT easy to look, at, he said it was from handling sphagnum, and was
NOT easy to cure. Wish I could add more, but do not have any further
information, I just know I DON`T want to 'catch' it!

Cheers,

Julius

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From: Regferns at aol.com on 2001.06.30 at 21:17:08(6921)
Just gettingt o these e-mails.

Yes Don, there is a fungus and it is "Sporotrichosis".? I contracted it back
in the late 70's and I am still here to talk about it. At the time of the
infection, because of it's rarity, my MD could not diagnose it. After two
weeks of watching my poor thumb swell up and become misshapen (back to normal
today though), the MD sent me to a dermatologist. He took a culture of it to
put in a petri dish. The fungus filled the dish overnight. He then sent
pictures of my thumb and info to the AMA. The diagnosis came back
"Sporotrichosis." At the time, the only presumed cure was to ingest iodine
drops (15 drops per day in any assortment of beverages, e.g., juices). After
the first try, the dosage was insufficient. It was reworked, and the
infection cleared up. Things returned to normal shortly afterwards. However,
the infection did begin to creep up my arm, fortunately it was stopped at
about wrist level.

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