Tagged: asco

fungi in the phylum Ascomycota

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2017 Summer News Update

Fungi appear in the news with surprising frequency. However, many of those stories do not provide any new information. Below is a summary of what we’ve learned about fungi from May through early July 2017. Read below to learn about: early fungal fossils, fungal epigenetics, the best way to cook mushrooms, liver disease, malaria, and more! Visit the associated links to get the full story.

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#188: Leotia lubrica, Jelly Babies

For some reason, the strange little mushrooms produced by the ascomycete Leotia lubrica are called “Jelly Babies” (or “Jellybabies”). They do look a little like the mushroom version of gummy fruit snacks, but that’s as close as I can get to understanding their common name. When fresh, these small yellow and brown mushrooms have a smooth but wrinkled and slimy cap held aloft by a gently curving stalk, so they do look somewhat like a gelatinous morsel on a stick.

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2017 Spring News Update

Fungi appear in the news with surprising frequency. However, many of those stories do not provide any new information. Below is a summary of what we’ve learned about fungi from March through April 2017. Read below to learn about: C. auris in the U.S., aflatoxin-destroying corn, viruses defying fungal incompatibility, fungus-farming ant evolution, bat and salamander diseases, and more! Visit the associated links to get the full story.

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#171: Reindeer Lichen

Reindeer Lichens grow in northern temperate forests, boreal forests, and even in the tundra. They are highly branched, fruticose lichens that are a primary food source for reindeer (also called caribou in North America). These lichens are sometimes called “Reindeer Moss,” even though they are lichens and not moss.

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2016 Fall News Update

Fungi appear in the news with surprising frequency. However, many of those stories do not provide any new information. Below is a summary of what we’ve learned about fungi from November 2016 Through February 2017. Read below to learn about: two-fungi lichens, the fate of bananas, battery recycyling, Crohn’s disease, orcas, human pathogenic fungi, and more! Visit the associated links to get the full story.

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#166: Chlorociboria spp., Green Stain Fungi

Chlorociboria spp. include some of my favorite fungi. Although you don’t see their mushrooms very often, it is quite common to find pieces of wood that have been stained blue-green by Chlorociboria mycelium. This attractive and unusual coloration earned these fungi many common names, including “Green Stain Fungus,” “Blue Stain Fungus,” “Turquoise Elfcup,” and various combinations and derivatives of those. I enjoy finding the stained wood, especially during dry periods or over the winter, when mushrooms are scarce.

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#164: Histoplasmosis

Histoplasmosis is a fungal disease caused by the fungus Histoplasma capsulatum. Like the other true human fungal pathogens, H. capsulatum lives as a mold in the environment but switches to an infective yeast form in the body. In nature, H. capsulatum grows on bird or bat droppings. This fungus is very common, especially in the Ohio and Mississippi River valley areas. However, H. capsulatum very rarely causes disease. As with most fungal diseases, people with a weakened immune system are most at risk of acquiring histoplasmosis.

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#163: Valley Fever, Coccidioidomycosis

Coccidioidomycosis, otherwise known as “Valley fever,” is the most virulent human fungal pathogen. The disease is caused by the fungi Coccidioides immitis and C. posadasii, which normally live in arid soils. When they are disturbed by wind, construction, or human activity, spores from these fungi can become airborne and end up in peoples’ lungs. There, the spores germinate and can cause infection. Most of the time, the infection is mild and does not need to be treated. Occasionally, however, this progresses to more severe forms that sometimes require lifelong treatment. As with other human fungal diseases, Valley fever is more likely to cause severe disease in people with weakened immune systems.

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#162: Candida albicans

In opportunistic fungal infections (FFF#161), fungi behave as they normally do, without drastically changing their cell structure or physiology. On the other hand, true fungal pathogens of animals can grow as both yeasts and hyphae. The fungus Candida albicans is somewhere in between these two groups. It normally inhabits healthy skin but can cause infection in people with a weakened immune system. In fact, it is one of the most virulent opportunistic pathogens. However, C. albicans can grow both as a yeast and as hyphae, making it morphologically more similar to true pathogenic fungi. C. albicans causes some of the most common fungal diseases, including: thrush, “yeast infections,” and invasive candidiasis.

Aspergillus sp. conidia 1

#161: Opportunistic Fungal Infections

This October, I will be discussing human fungal infections. Although fungi can be extremely problematic for certain species of animals and plants, fungi cause humans relatively few problems. There are roughly 300 species of fungi that cause disease in humans, but the most common ones cause nuisance infections of the skin. About 20-25% of the global population has a fungal skin infection like ringworm, athlete’s foot, and similar diseases. Although annoying, these infections are not very severe. There are a few fungi that cause more severe diseases, but these are much less common. The most dangerous type of fungal infections are the opportunistic infections. These are caused by normally benign fungi that take advantage of unusual conditions, such as when a patient has a weakened immune system.