Fungi are microorganisms which are multi-cellular.
They are used for many purposes in human life.
Like bacteria, they are widely used by modern man for medicine, agriculture, food, etc.
Though they also cause of many external and internal diseases in man, still some of them are of immense benefit.
1. Production of medicines: Fungi are used to produce many drugs like
a) Antibiotics: Ex: Penicillin is the first antibiotic which was discovered by Alexander Flemming. It is very potent antibiotic and still finds its use in modern medicine. Similarly, many other antibiotics like cephalosporins, tetracyclines, macrolide antibiotics are also isolated from fungi. These antibiotics changed the course of human medicine and man was able to control many epidemics worldwide successfully.
b) Alkaloids: Ergot is one of the alkaloids isolated from a fungus namely Claviceps purpura. This produces alkaloids like ergometrine, ergotoxine, ergotamine, etc. which are used to control migraine headaches.
c) Immune modulators: Cyclosporin is an immune-suppressant used in organ transplantation. If a person has received any of the organs like kidney, heart, etc., then their body immune system tries to destroy the foreign organ. Taking these immune suppressants prevent the immune attack on the transplanted organ in the body.
d) Enzymes: Few enzymes like lipase, protease, cellulase, glucoamylase are obtained from fungus
2. As food material:
Some fungi like mushrooms are widely used as food. They are highly nutritious while some them are toxic. Even cheese, fermented bean paste is made by use of fungus.
3. Natural scavengers: Fungi are saprophytes, i.e., they eat the dead and decomposing matter. Thus we can see the fungus contaminates all the rotten foods. This fungus therefore eats the decaying material and clean the environment around just like the bacteria.
4. For agricultural purposes: Fungi are also used in agriculture. They are especially useful as
a) Bio-pesticides: Some fungi are used to control bacterial and other fungal infections in plants and crops. This is called as biological control. The infectious bacteria are destroyed based on competitive exclusion principle.
Some bacteria are also used as insecticides. They kill pests like beetles, caterpillars, etc.
b) Fertilizers: Fungi like mycorrhiza live in symbiotic relationship with plant roots. They help plants absorb nutrients and also enhance soil fertility by decomposing dead leaves and other organic matter.
They also prevent development of root diseases and give sustainable nutrition to whole plant.
5. rDNA technology: rDNA technology is one where the desired product is obtained from a genetically modified organism like fungi. Fungi are used to produce recombinant DNA products used in medicine. Many yeast like fungi are used for fermentation process. Pencillinium chrysogenium is a filamentous fungi is a recombinant one used to produce pencillin antibiotic in large quantities.