Diseases, Conditions, Syndromes

A frenemy fungus provides clues about a new deadly one

It seems like every few years there's a virus or bacterium that threatens human health in a new way. But a new fungus that is a threat to humans? That doesn't happen very often. That's why we in the medical mycology community ...

Oncology & Cancer

Mushrooms of the Far East hold promise for anti-cancer therapy

Mushrooms from the Far East contain natural chemical compounds that could be used for the design of the novel drugs with highly specific anti-tumor activities and low toxicity. These compounds may offer new avenues for oncology, ...

Surgery

Fungi and bacteria grow on body implants, study finds

A body implant provides a new habitat for bacteria and fungi, a new study conducted at the University of Copenhagen reveals. The researchers have examined a number of implants such as screws implanted in the body in connection ...

Diseases, Conditions, Syndromes

Starving fungi could save millions of lives each year

Researchers have identified a potentially new approach to treating lethal fungal infections that claim more than 1.6 million lives each year: starving the fungi of key nutrients, preventing their growth and spread.

Overweight & Obesity

Gut fungi could play a role in obesity epidemic

A high-fat diet changes fungi in the gut and may play a role in the development of obesity, according to a new study in mSphere, a journal of the American Society for Microbiology. While gut microbes have previously been ...

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Fungus

Dikarya (inc. Deuteromycota)

A fungus (pronounced /ˈfʌŋɡəs/) is a eukaryotic organism that is a member of the kingdom Fungi (pronounced /ˈfʌndʒaɪ/ or /ˈfʌŋɡaɪ/). The fungi are a monophyletic group, also called the Eumycota (true fungi or Eumycetes), that is phylogenetically distinct from the structurally similar slime molds (myxomycetes) and water molds (oomycetes). Fungi are heterotrophic organisms that possess a chitinous cell wall, and most species grow as multicellular filaments called hyphae that form a mycelium; some species grow as single cells. Fungi reproduce sexually or asexually via spores, which are often produced on specialized structures or in fruiting bodies. Some fungi have lost the ability to form reproductive structures, and propagate solely by vegetative growth. Commonly known fungi include yeasts, molds, and mushrooms, which are general descriptions based on appearance and growth form that are often applied to groups of unrelated species. The discipline of biology devoted to the study of fungi is known as mycology, which is often regarded as a branch of botany, but fungi are genetically more closely related to animals than to plants.

Abundant worldwide, most fungi are invisible to the naked eye because of the very small size of their vegetative structures. They live mainly in soil, on dead matter, and as symbionts of plants, animals, or other fungi. They perform an essential role in decomposing organic matter in ecosystems and have fundamental roles in nutrient cycling and exchange. Fungi may become noticeable when fruiting, either as mushrooms or molds. They have long been used as a direct source of food, such as mushrooms and truffles, as a leavening agent for bread, and in fermentation of various food products, such as wine, beer, and soy sauce. More recently, fungi have been used as sources for various enzymes important in industry and used in detergents, and, since the 1940s, for the production of antibiotics. Fungi are used as biological agents to control weeds and pests. Many species produce bioactive compounds called mycotoxins, such as alkaloids and polyketides that are toxic to animals including humans. The fruiting structures of a few species are consumed recreationally or in traditional ceremonies as a source of psychotropic compounds. Fungi can break down manufactured materials and buildings, and become significant pathogens of humans and other animals. Losses due to fungal diseases of crops (e.g., rice blast disease) or food spoilage can have a large impact on human food supplies and local economies.

The fungus kingdom encompasses an enormous diversity of taxa with varied ecologies and life cycle strategies, and morphologies ranging from amoeba-like protists and single-celled aquatic chytrids to large mushrooms. However, little is known of the true biodiversity of Kingdom Fungi, which has been estimated at around 1.5 million species, with about 5% of these having been formally classified. Ever since the pioneering 18th and 19th century taxonomical works of Carl Linnaeus, Christian Hendrik Persoon, and Elias Magnus Fries, fungi have been classified according to their morphology (e.g., characteristics such as spore color or microscopic features) or physiology. Advances in molecular genetics have opened the way for DNA analysis to be incorporated into taxonomy, which has sometimes challenged the historical groupings based on morphology and other traits. Phylogenetic studies published in the last decade have helped reshape the classification of Kingdom Fungi, which is divided into one subkingdom, seven phyla, and ten subphyla.

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