Tagged: medical

uses for or concerns about fungi in medicine

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#203: Deoxynivalenol

Deoxynivalenol (DON) is a toxin found in grains infected with the fungus Fusarium graminearum and other Fusarium species. It is often called “vomitoxin” because it primarily causes vomiting in humans and livestock. Its long-term effects are mild, but it is still a very important mycotoxin because it is the most common mycotoxin found in food.

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#202: Aflatoxins

Fungi produce innumerable “mycotoxins” – compounds that are toxic to humans. In mushrooms, these cause symptoms ranging from gastrointestinal upset to death (see FFF#091–100 for more). Although these are of significant concern to mushroom hunters, their impact is relatively small. The most significant mycotoxins in terms of the number of people affected are produced by molds that naturally grow on food. Over the next few weeks, I will discuss some of the most problematic food-borne mycotoxins. Topping that list are the aflatoxins, which cause liver cancer and are especially problematic for people in developing nations.

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2017 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 August through October 2017. Read below to learn about: ballistospory, chromosome evolution, fighting fungal pathogens (in humans, bats, and bananas), psilocybin, oil-eating fungi, and more! Visit the associated links to get the full story.

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#195: Warfarin, from Cow Disease to Medicine

Warfarin is one of the most successful drugs of all time. Seventy years after it was first synthesized, warfarin is still the most widely prescribed anticoagulant. Warfarin has a unique story. What began as depression-era research into a mysterious disease of cattle ended up producing two life-saving medicines and a rat poison that are still in use today.

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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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2017 Winter 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: bacteria-fungal interactions, snake fungal disease, psilocybin research, fungal furniture, white-nose syndrome, intelligent slime molds and more! Visit the associated links to get the full story.

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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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#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.

Candida albicans yeast and hyphae 0

#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.