Resources

About Our Fungal Portraits

The following images show a selection of images of fungi which can cause illness in humans and animals. These photos have been taken using a microscope and some of the images use a stain so that you can see the fungal cells clearly.

With thanks for to: Applied Mycology Group, University of Minho, Portugal; Mycology Online at The University of Adelaide; Niall Hamilton; & Jim Harris who have generously given permission for the use of certain images.

 

Aspergillus

Essential to the nitrogen and carbon cycles, Aspergillus thrives on rotting leaves, and house dust mite poo. Masses of Aspergillus are found in well-loved pillows. Breathed in daily, Aspergillus can cause lung destruction by forming cavities and fungal balls, as well as a silent type of pneumonia in those with leukaemia or on steroids. 

Aspergillus also lives in the airways of those with asthma, making asthma worse. Millions of people with asthma are affected by Aspergillus.

Histoplasma

Histoplasma causes pneumonia when inhaled. It is found in starling and bat droppings mostly in the Americas, the higher the dose inhaled - the worse the pneumonia. Coughing and high fever after visiting caves which are home to a large colony of bats is a sign of infection. 

Flocks of wheeling starlings darkening the evening sky can leave the ground beneath infected. Bob Dylan nearly died of a histoplasma infection.

Paracoccidioides

Women are protected from infection by Paracoccidiodes by their oestrogen. So it affects mainly men. In South America, Paracoccidiodes lives as a fluffy mould in the soil. When breathed in, it changes in the lungs to look like a ship’s steering wheel as it causes infection, a transition blocked by oestrogen. So only men get pneumonia, ulcers in their gums and lymph gland swelling, all caused by Paracoccidioides.

Fusarium

With its sickle-shaped spores, Fusarium causes many plant diseases, including head blight of barley and Panama disease of bananas. While threshing cereal crops, the husk can get into the eye and penetrate the transparent cornea. After rubbing the eye and treatment with local healer’s remedies or antibiotic drops, allows gradual destruction of the cornea by the fungus and then blindness. Over one million eyes go blind each year from fungal infection. 

Candida

The cause of thrush, Candida can travel through blood vessel cells and leave no trace, like Harry Potter and his invisibility cloak. In its yeast form, Candida is innocuous, living in harmony with bacteria in the human mouth and gut, but once it changes shape to form longer cells, it can invade through the body even though the immune system attempts to block it.

Millions of people get thrush, which is most unpleasant, but Candida is much more dangerous when it penetrates through the intestine getting into the bloodstream, when it becomes deadly. Young babies are particularly susceptible when premature.

More Funky Fungi

For more infomation and pictures of fungi to help with your entries,please see the helpful links below; 

Fungal Cell Biology Group

MycoBank; More Funky Images

www.aspergillus.org.uk (Just register free on the site to view the images)

Funki Fungi Photo Gallery

Trichophyton

Trichophyton fungi thrive on keratin, of which hair and nails are made. Some cause disease in animals such as hedgehogs (Europe and New Zealand). Wrestler’s can pass it from one to another, during a sustained hold (tinea gladiatorum). Athlete’s foot (often not in athletes!), tinea, ringworm, hair loss and toenail infections are all caused by Trichophyton and are very common affecting over 200 million people worldwide.

Cryptococcus

The yeast Cryptococcus is found in pigeon droppings and eucalyptus trees all over the world. Breathed in, it can cause pneumonia in humans and koalas. Once in the body, it can travel from the lungs to the brain causing the pounding headache of meningitis, common in those with AIDS and occasionally in others.  One million cases occur each year worldwide.

 

Alternaria

Alternaria invades wheat near harvest time. When the wind blows billions of spores are released into the air.  Spore storms can carry trillions of mould spores across several hundred miles. Alternaria causes asthma attacks, especially after thunderstorms. Some people are so wheezy and breathless they need hospital care and sometimes artificial ventilation, so called ‘thunderstorm asthma’.

About Project Life

Project LIFE has three fundamental aims:

  • To promote awareness of LIFE and its aims through the work of young artists and musicians
  • To give budding artists and musicians the recognition they deserve by promoting their talents
  • To educate young people about fungi and how they can cause illness

Latest Press

Links are found between asthma and fungal allergy.

There are up to 150,000 people suffering from severe asthma in the UK. From the research we discovered that they could benefit from taking antifungal medication already available from pharmacists - the pills used to treat everyday fungal infections greatly improved the symptoms of asthma in those patients that had an allergic reaction to one or more fungi.

Click here to find out more.

Aspergillus as Beautiful Art Pieces

Aspergillus becomes a top subject for artist and sculpture Fiona Hepburn. Fiona has used various screen printing techniques to design her amazing sculptures based on Aspergillus fumigatus. Quote froom her " The final images I produce are one-off pieces, made up of thousands of multiples. Each tiny 'spore' is printed using hand drawn stencils exposed on to a screen. The screenprinted spores are printed on to fragile Japanese paper. I reproduce the spores until I have thousands of them, often in variations of colours and tones. Each tiny 'spore' is hand cut with a scalpel and attached to a pin. I construct the work by pushing these pins in to a background image either made through screenprint or woodcut. It allows me to control the growth of the image, allowing for different parts of the image to be seen at different levels. Making the work is like watching the cells of growing mould multiply.

For more infomation on Fiona, click here

Poetry from Bob

One of our judges Bob Devereux has been creative: 

Spores floating in our atmosphere
Spores that the naked eye can’t see
I like to think they work for me
Recycling life’s detritus
 
Sometimes friends can get up my nose
Good friends can be bad enemies
It’s hard to breath at times like these
If they don't keep their distance
 
Keep looking for the way to win
This fight with space invaders
Keep spores at bay and in their place
Recycling life’s detritus

Fungal News

The largest organism in the world is a mushroom that is over 1,000 years old, covering hundreds of acres of forest in Oregon, USA. Kew Gardens has an enormous collection of dried fungi - over 1.25 million samples stored in a huge archive. But many interesting studies are carried out by Mycologists at Kew. Watch a short video to see more.

Beware of the risks of inhaling cannabis

Plant material such as marijuana is an excellent food source for fungi such as Aspergillus. Once cut the material must be dried rapidly and consistently to a very low moisture level to avoid it becoming mouldy. Once dried it must be stored in completely dry conditions to prevent it becoming damp and once again quickly becoming mouldy.

Storing marijuana or any other plant material in small sealed containers or wrapped in plastic will only help if the material is completely dry in the first place, otherwise you are effectively locking the mould in with its own supply of food and water whereupon it will flourish. Mould does not need light or much heat to grow.    

More news like this can be found by clicking here

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