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.



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 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.


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.


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. 


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 (Just register free on the site to view the images)

Funki Fungi Photo Gallery


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.


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 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

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.

Competition shortlist

The judges have been studying all the entries and have now drawn up their shortlist. To view the shortlist click here. There were hundreds of entries of a very high standard and many were inspirational. We would like to congratulate all entrants on achieving such a high standard. Well done to all those who were shortlisted - and you will receive an email inviting you to bring your artwork for the final judging. Shortlisted entries will be exhibited at the Manchester Science Festival at the end of October. 

What causes fungus in the lungs?

Some fungi grow as molds, while others exist in two forms, or dimorphic---either as molds or budding yeast. Fungi can cause pneumonia in healthy people who travel to endemic areas in the United States or Central America; they can also cause rapidly fatal pneumonia in immunocompromised patients recovering from chemotherapy, or HIV-infected patients with advanced disease.

Read more:

Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan was hospitalized on May 25, 1997 seriously ill with histoplasmosis, a potential life threatening fungal infection that causes swelling of the sac surrounding the heart. Histoplasmosis is caused by the fungus histoplasma capsulatum. Dylan was treated with antibiotics, and his condition was not considered life threatening. Doctors said his condition was made more severe by a delay in diagnosis

More than just mushrooms

A fungus (plural fungi) is a member of a large group of eukaryotic organisms that includes microorganisms such as yeasts and molds  (British English: moulds), as well as the more familiar mushrooms. These organisms are classified as a kingdom, Fungi, which is separate from plants, animals, and bacteria. Visit the BBC's  Nature website for a viewpoint on fungi in nature.

Read More


Real LIfe Stories

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