Fungus eats CD
Spores bore holes in compact disks, rendering them
27 June 2001
|The pits: fungal attack wipes CD data.|
Computers get viruses. Code gets bugs. Now CDs get fungus. Researchers
in Spain have discovered a fungus that eats holes in compact discs, corrupting
the information stored in them.
After visiting Belize in Central America, Victor Cardenes of Madrid's
National Museum of Natural Sciences (MNCN), found one of his CDs discoloured,
transparent and unreadable.
The disk's aluminium and polycarbonate layers were riddled with fungus,
Cardenes and his colleagues have discovered.
The team has isolated and cultured what they believe to be Geotrichum
candidum. Usually, this fungus lives on plants and animals. Occasionally it
infects the human respiratory tract. DNA analysis is pending.
Burrowing in like worms from the side of the disk, "the fungus destroyed
crucial information pits", says team-member Javier GarcÃa-Guinea. Pits in a
CD's aluminium and polycarbonate sandwich store binary data, which is read by a
|Grooving: fungus spores bore through a CD.|
Some fungi are known to live on plastics and polymers, but this is the
first report of a CD being eaten by a fungus. The researchers believe that the
spores probably entered the CD in Belize.
The rarity of this phenomenon suggests that Belize's high temperatures
and tropical humidity were crucial. To find out more, the Spanish group has
posted an offer on the internet to analyse unreadable CDs from anyone wanting
to test their disks for fungal infection. They have also submitted their work
to the journal Natur Wissenschaften.
The problem with fungi is that we know far less about them than about
bacteria, explains environmental microbiologist Marc Valls of Madrid's National
Center. The finding that one has a taste for CDs is "not very surprising" he
says, but it offers hope that fungi with similarly unusual proclivities might
be exploited for environmental clean-up.