5 Uses of Fungi | Their Importance in Human Life

There are many uses of fungi in daily life. These are the microorganisms that cause a variety of diseases in humans. But they are beneficial to us in the following ways.

  1. In Medicine for the production of antibiotics, vaccines, enzymes, vitamins, hormones, etc.
  2. As food
  3. Nature scavenging
  4. Biofertilizers
  5. Biopesticides
  6. Weedicide
  7. In rDNA technology
  8. Fermentation and other
  9. industrial applications

They are used for many purposes in human life.

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

Though they also cause many external and internal diseases in man, some are of immense benefit.

1. Production of medicines

Fungi are used to produce certain medicines like antibiotics.

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 fungus.

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

d) 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 poisonous mushrooms.

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

3. Natural scavengers in the Environment

Fungi are saprophytes, i.e., they eat the dead and decomposing matter.

Thus we can see the fungus contaminating all the rotten foods in the kitchen, hotels, etc.

This fungus, therefore, 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 are 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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