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How frequently do you clean your dishwasher?
Once a month
Once a quarter
Twice a year
I'm supposed to clean the dishwasher?
Ew! Look What's in Your Dishwasher

If you think the dishwasher detergent you use to clean your dirty dishes also cleans and sanitizes your dishwasher, think again.

Scientists have found a potentially harmful fungus that grows in dishwashers, surviving the high temperatures, as well as large doses of powerful detergents and rinse aids, reports AFP.

The fungus, a black yeast called Exophiala dermatitidis, even survives both acid and alkaline types of water. It was found along with a cousin fungus, E. phaeomuriformis, in samples taken from 189 dishwashers in 189 homes in 101 cities on six continents.

In other words, it's everywhere. Fifty-six percent of the dishwashers contained the fungi on the rubber seal on the door.

Both species of fungus "are known to be able to cause systemic disease in humans and frequently colonize the lungs of patients with cystic fibrosis," according to the study, which was published in the journal Fungal Biology.

Here's the scariest part of all: The fungi are "extremophile" organisms that are rarely encountered in nature, suggesting they have found an evolutionary benefit by occupying a household niche, thriving on warmth and moisture, reports AFP. That means your dishwasher is their natural habitat.

Other microscopic species found in the dishwashers were members of the Aspergillus, Candida, Magnusiomyces, Fusarium, Penicillium and Rhodotorula groups.

More research is needed to determine whether the fungi are a threat to human health.

The journal Fungal Biology is published by the British Mycological Society.

--From the Editors at Netscape

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