Australian Dust Storm Associated with Extensive Aspergillus sydowii Fungal "Bloom" in Coastal Waters.


Hallegraeff G1, Coman F, Davies C, Hayashi A, McLeod D, Slotwinski A, Whittock L, Richardson AJ.
Appl Environ Microbiol. 2014 Jun;80(11):3315-20. Epub 2014 Mar 21.


A massive central Australian dust storm in September 2009 was associated with abundant fungal spores (150,000/m(3)) and hyphae in coastal waters between Brisbane (27°S) and Sydney (34°S). These spores were successfully germinated from formalin-preserved samples, and using molecular sequencing of three different genes (the large subunit rRNA gene [LSU], internal transcribed spacer [ITS[, and beta-tubulin gene), they were conclusively identified as Aspergillus sydowii, an organism circumstantially associated with gorgonian coral fan disease in the Caribbean. Surprisingly, no human health or marine ecosystem impacts were associated with this Australian dust storm event. Australian fungal cultures were nontoxic to fish gills and caused a minor reduction in the motility of Alexandrium or Chattonella algal cultures but had their greatest impacts on Symbiodinium dinoflagellate coral symbiont motility, with hyphae being more detrimental than spores. While we have not yet seen any soft coral disease outbreaks on the Australian Great Barrier Reef similar to those observed in the Caribbean and while this particular fungal population was non- or weakly pathogenic, our observations raise the possibility of future marine ecosystem pathogen impacts from similar dust storms harboring more pathogenic strains.