The biodiversity and richness of keratinophilic fungal communities including dermatophytes were assessed in three stream sites and three swimming pools in the Nablus district in Palestine, using hair baiting (HBT) and surface dilution plate (SDP) techniques, over 8- and 6-month periods, respectively. The effect of wastewater effluent and selected ecological factors on these fungi in relation to species diversity and population densities were also considered. Fifty keratinophilic fungal species were recovered from the aquatic habitats studied, of which 42 were recovered from stream sites and 22 from swimming pools. Of these fungi 6 were either dermatophytes (Microsporum gypseum, and Trichophyton mentagrophytes) or dermatophyte related species (Chrysosporium merdarium, Ch. tropicum, Ch. keratinophilum and T. terrestre). The most frequently isolated species in the three pools were Acremonium strictum and Cladosporium cladosporioides, using Sabouraud dextrose agar medium (SDA). The most abundant species were Acr. strictum, and Aspergillus flavus. However, only 4 species were isolated using the SDA medium amended with 5-flurocytosine (5-FC). The most frequent and abundant species in the three stream sites using SDA medium were Geotricum candidum, and Penicillium chrysogenum. The most frequent species in the three sites using the 5-FC medium, was Paecilomyces lilacinus. Using HBT, the most abundant and frequent species in the three stream sites were G. candidum, and Pa. lilacinus, on SDA medium, and Pa. lilacinus, and Gliocladium nigrovirens on the 5-FC medium. The 5-FC medium was more suitable for the isolation of dermatophytes and closely related species than the SDA medium; 6 were recovered on 5-FC, whereas only one on the SDA medium. Variation in the levels of keratinophilic fungal populations from the three stream sites sampled 5 times over an 8-month period, followed comparable fluctuation patterns. Wastewater affected fungal population densities with the highest levels in the un-polluted stream sites, and lowest in the heavily polluted sites. Swimming pools, polluted and un-polluted stream sites were found to be rich in pathogenic and potentially pathogenic fungi.
dermatophytes, keratinophilic fungi, polluted streams, stream water, swimming pools, tinea pedis