Imagine 100,000 to 200,000 people from around the United States – some percentage of whom are immunosuppressed by antirejection medications, radiation, chemotherapy, or AIDS – walking barefoot every day through a corridor of filthy, unwashed floors. Now imagine the flora they pick up on their feet and breathe into their lungs.

What you're imagining, says Cecil Fox, is the security screening process at place like Little Rock National Airport in Arkansas, which Fox calls "the equivalent of a gigantic Petri plate 300 yards across" for fungi. "If you were to take these people and tell them that we're going to run you through this culture of whatever it is on the floor, well their doctors would go ballistic," says Fox, a former National Institutes of Health scientist who founded and runs Molecular Histology Labs in Little Rock. "What physician would ever allow his immunosuppressed patients to do that?"

To those...

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