5 Uses of Fungi | Their Importance in Human Life

There are many uses of fungi in daily life which we are not aware off.

We are mostly informed about the variety of diseases and food damage caused by these microorganisms.

But they are infact quite beneficial to us. Scientists are of the opinion that, these fungi are essential blocks of all the life on the earth.

Which means, without fungi life would become extinct.

Benefits of fungi are found in

  1. Medicine 
  2. Food
  3. Ecological benefits (Nature scavengers)
  4. As Biofertilizers
  5. Biopesticides
  6. Weedicide
  7. In rDNA technology
  8. For Fermentation
  9. Other industrial applications

Like bacteria, fungi are widely used by modern man for medicine, agriculture, food, etc.

But, due to decrease in immunity, these fungi are able to cause many external and internal diseases in man.

1. In Healthcare for medicines

Fungi are used to produce certain important medicines without which it hard to manage diseases.

They are used to produce antibiotics, vaccines, enzymes, statins, vitamins, hormones, and more.

a) Antibiotics

Fungi secrete certain substances which prevent the growth of bacteria. These substances are used as antibiotics for human benefit.

Penicillin was the first discovered antibiotic by Alexander Flemming.

It is a very potent antibiotic and still finds its use in modern medicine.

Similarly, other antibiotics like cephalosporins are also isolated from fungi cephalosporium acremonium.

These antibiotics changed the course of human medicine, and man was able to control many epidemics successfully.

Most antibiotics are needed on a large scale to combat infections from bacteria.

But, the fungi secrete less quantity of antibiotics which would not be sufficient for large-scale use.

Such large quantities are produced by microbial fermentation of specific fungi.

b) Statins

Statins are the medicines used to decrease cholesterol and LDL levels in the body. 

They do so by inhibiting the enzyme HMG CoA reductase. This enzyme facilitates the formation of the mevalonate, a precursor to sterol synthesis.

Mevastatin is one example of the drug extracted from the mold Penicillium citrinum.

c) 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.

d) 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 prevents the immune attack on the transplanted organ in the body.

e) Enzymes

Few enzymes like lipase, protease, cellulase, glucoamylase are obtained from the fungus. These enzymes have many applications to man

2. As food material

Uses of Fungi

Certain kinds of mushrooms are used as food due to nutrition values. But some of them are toxic too. It is hard to differentiate toxic ones, so caution is necessary.

Some fungi, like mushrooms, are widely used as food. They are highly nutritious, while some of them are toxic.

Examples: Agaricus campestris, an edible mushroom, is commercially cultivated in France and the USA.

On the other hand, Agaricus xanthodermus and Agaricus silvicola are poisonous mushrooms.

Besides the above, even cheese, fermented bean paste is made by use of fungus.

3. Ecological benefits

Fungi are natural scavengers in the environment.

By food habits, they are saprophytes and they eat the dead and decompose the matter.

Thus we can notice food getting contaminated by mold in the kitchen, hotels etc.

These fungi, eats the decaying material and cleans 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. The use of chemical pesticides is harmful to humans and other animals. They also lead to soil, water, and air pollution.

But the use of biopesticides eliminates these problems. The infectious bacteria are destroyed based on the competitive exclusion principle. This is called biological control.

Some bacteria are also used as insecticides. They kill pests like beetles, caterpillars, etc.

b) Fertilizers

Fungi like mycorrhiza live in a symbiotic relationship with plant roots. They help plants absorb nutrients and also enhance soil fertility by decomposing dead leaves and other organic matter.

Uses of Fungi

Fungi help to fix nitrogen from the air into the soil, destroy soil-born parasites and keep the crop healthy.

They also prevent the development of root diseases and give sustainable nutrition to the whole plant.

c) Weed control

Weeds are plants that can grow naturally in soil.

But when they grow in agricultural land, they hinder the growth of the regular crop.

This is because they compete with the crop for the same nutrition and water resources from the same soil.

Fungi like Colletotrichum, Sclerotinia are found efficacious in control of weeds.

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 yeasts-like fungi are used for the fermentation process.

Penicillium chrysogenium is a filamentous fungus is a recombinant one used to produce penicillin antibiotics in large quantities.

6. Fermentation and other industrial applications

Rhizopus is a type of fungi that is used for different purposes. Examples include

a) Rhizopus oryzae is used to produce alcohol by the fermentation process.

b) Rhizopus stolonifer is used in the production of fumaric acid.

c) Rhizopus Sinensis is used for the manufacture of lactic acid.

References

  1. Cephalosporins.
  2. Weed controlling fungi.

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