Medical and Industrial Importance of Fungi

Fungi have become increasingly important to the society and industry in the provision of medicines and foods. These organisms have industrially been used to produce beer and other products of fermentation. Particularly, Saccharomyces cerevisae, the brewers yeast has been important for along time in the beer making process. Fungi cause diseases in humans such as ringworm, candidiasis, athletes foot, vaginal and oral infections (Sharma, 1989). The fungi are members of the eukaryotic organisms which consist of the yeast, molds and the mushrooms. The fungi exhibit a symbiotic mode of relationship where they mutually benefit from other organisms in the environment. An example is of this relationship is between Mycorrhizae and the nitrogenous plants. The fungi are most conspicuous and they occur on every part of the earths environment and also they play important roles in medicine and the industry.

Fungi as Human Pathogens
Some fungi are pathogenic in the human life. Some of them attack the skin causing superficial infections like ringworms, jock-itch as well as athletes foot. Some other fungi occur inside the tissues causing the systematic infections that maybe fatal or chronic. The fungi usually enter into the tissues through the open wounds or through inhalation of the spores (Sharma, 1989). The superficial infections such as the ringworms occur on the exposed parts of the body causing symptoms such as the skin lesion, rash and also itching in the area that is infected. The species of the fungi that cause ringworms can be categorized into zoophilic, those that affect the animals and can also be transmitted to people, they are spread by spores and anthropophilic, that infect humans and cannot be transferred to the animals.

The systematic infections are of a wider perspective. One of the infections is the Coccidioides immitis this is contracted by inhalation of the spores to the lungs and may spread throughout the body through the bloodstream. The symptoms may be some severe lesions in the skin, internal organs, and the bones and also massive external and internal abscesses and lesions. Another infection is the Histoplasma capsulatum. This one is thought to have been caused by a protozoan. The victims of the disease experience massive infections in their bodies that may lead to death. Finally, there is the Blastomyces infection that is received from the spores or the mycelium in the part of the invaded body. The fungus infection spreads throughout the whole body leading to excessive ulceration.

Finally in the intermediate infections, there is the Candida albicans infection that occurs among the digestive tract, the flora of the mouth and the vagina for the victims the chromlastomycosis that inhabit the soil and get into the humans through the lower part of the leg through the wounds and finally the Aspergillus fumigatus, that paralyses the human body infecting the lungs and also causing deaths of many patients (Sharma, 1989).

Symbiotic Relationship
In symbiotic relationship, organisms depend on each other and mutually gain without any of them losing or gaining more. It is different from commensalism where one organism gains while the other does not gain or lose. Dung beetles feed on cow dung benefiting from the cows though the cows do not lose or gain. This is atypical example of commensalism.

The fungi play an important role in the symbiotic relationship with the ecosystem such as the nitrogen fixation process involving the root nodules of leguminous plants and Rhizobium.  One of the major benefits of this process is fixing of free nitrogen in the air into the soil for plant use. The fungi act as an important link to the nitrogen fixation as a way of its symbiotic survival. This occurs in the plants that have the nitrogen fixing bacteria inside their tissues. One of the examples is the bacteria found in the genus Rhizobium and the legumes. In the nitrogen fixation, the bacteria are able to change the nitrogen in the atmosphere and change it into ammonic form that the plants can use (Sharma, 1989). This is also an industrial importance of the fungi.

Commercial Applications of Fungi
There are a number of important applications of the fungi in the commercial usage. One of the most ancient commercial applications of fungi is in brewing industries. Fungi are good sources of amino acids that can be produced and commercialized. Some of the amino acids are used in facilitating the growth of many important plants and crops of economic importance. In addition to that, they are used as food for many individuals an example is the mushrooms, they are cultivated and sold worldwide as food to many individuals.

Some of the fungi are used for medicinal purposes. An example is the penicillin that is derived from the Penicillium notatum. This is used to control some diseases in the human and the animal population. The Chinese caterpillar fungus is one of the fungi that are used for the control of the insects in the crop production. It works by paralyzing the insects such as the potato beetles, leaf hoppers and the citrus mites. The use of this method of control is proven to be cheaper for commercial use (Sharma, 1989). Other drugs derived from fungi include Lovastatin, Cyclosporine, Ergotine and Griseofulvin.

Fungi have become more important as biological and medical research advance. The cellular and molecular processes in fungi continue to be deciphered. More products are being developed from fungi due to the enabling technologies such as recombinant DNA technology. For instance, scientists have been able to produce natural dyes derived from lichens that can be used in clothing industry. The use of fungi in genetic and biological research has provided important biochemical and genetic information that can be exploited in drug discovery.


Post a Comment