Mycology and Mycosis

Mycology is the branch of biology concerned with the study of fungi, including their genetic and biochemical properties, their taxonomy and their use to humans as a source for tinder, medicine, food, and entheogens, as well as their dangers, such as toxicity or infection.

Fungi as Source of food

Fungi used as food sources, in particular, the cheese fungi, the truffles, and the fungi used for drink fermentation such as beer, wine, and sake. We discuss their history of consumption by humans and the genomic mechanisms of adaptation during artificial selection.

Fungi as Source of Medicine

Many secondary metabolites of fungi are of great commercial importance. Fungi naturally produce antibiotics to kill or inhibit the growth of bacteria, limiting their competition in the natural environment. Important antibiotics, such as penicillin and the cephalosporins, can be isolated from fungi. Valuable drugs isolated from fungi include the immunosuppressant drug cyclosporine (which reduces the risk of rejection after organ transplant), the precursors of steroid hormones, and ergot alkaloids used to stop bleeding. Psilocybin is a compound found in fungi such as Psilocybe semilanceata and Gymnopilus junonius, which have been used for their hallucinogenic properties by various cultures for thousands of years. Some fungi attack insects and, therefore, can be used as natural pesticides.

Ethnomycology

Ethnomycology is the study of the historical uses and sociological impact of fungi and can be considered a subfield of ethnobotany or ethnobiology. An entheogen is a class of psychoactive substances that induce any type of spiritual experience aimed at development. The term entheogen is often chosen to contrast recreational use of the same drugs. Although in theory the term includes fungi used for such purposes as tinder, medicine (medicinal mushrooms) and food (including yeast), it is often used in the context of the study of psychoactive mushrooms such as psilocybin mushrooms, the Amanita muscaria mushroom, and the ergot fungus.

Mycosis is a fungal infection of animals, including humans. Mycoses are common and a variety of environmental and physiological conditions can contribute to the development of fungal diseases. Inhalation of fungal spores or localized colonization of the skin may initiate persistent infections; therefore, mycoses often start in the lungs or on the skin. Fungal infections of the skin was the 4th most common disease in 2010 affecting 984 million people.  An estimation of 1.6 million people die each year of fungal infections.

 

  • Track 1-1 Fungal genetics and Biology
  • Track 2-2 Ethnomycology
  • Track 3-3 Fungi as Source of food
  • Track 4-4 Fungi as Source of Medicine

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