Some fungi are mutualistic wherein it is involved in a mutually beneficial association with another organism or plant. There are other fungi that are parasitic in nature. Fungi are eukaryotic in nature i.e., their DNA is enclosed inside a nucleus (Microbe World). Fungi differ considerably in their structures. They range in size from a single-celled organism like yeast to a 3.5-mile wide multi-cellular mushroom which is the largest known living organism on Earth (Microbe World). Some fungi have proved to be very useful to human beings. There are nearly 200 species of edible fungi (Tutor Next). Some of the common ones are mushrooms like Agaricus campestris and Agaricus bisporus, puffballs like Lycoperdon, morels like Morchella esculenta, khumb like Podaxon and truffles (Tutor Next). These fungi are rich in vegetable proteins and vitamins and are delicious in taste. Certain fungi help in breaking down complex organic compounds of dead plants and animals resulting in their decay. In this process, they return mineral salts to the earth which plants need and clean up the environment. Some fungi have been used to develop medicines like antibiotics to fight various types of diseases. Fungi have also helped in the development of medicines to treat diseases like cancer, arthritis, diabetes, and scientists around the world have been testing and developing new drugs from fungal sources. Some fungi cause diseases and can be extremely harmful. One of the most famous fungi is Phytophthora infestans which caused the great potato famine in Ireland during the mid-1800s and resulted in a million deaths (Encyclopedia Britannica). Fungi are also responsible for the destruction of about a quarter to half of harvested fruits and vegetables annually. Certain species of fungi are toxic and can cause mild to moderate poisoning. However, there are a few species, which if ingested, can be extremely poisonous. Mushroom poisoning is mostly accidental and the result of a mix-up between edible and toxic fungi. Some people intentionally ingest psychotropic mushrooms which can have drastic consequences. The most serious poisonings are caused by cytotoxic agents like amatoxins which are found in Amanita phalloides, Amanita virosa, Amanita verna and in some Galerina and Lepiota species (Persson 635). The amatoxins in these mushrooms target the liver and cause intense gastrointestinal symptoms with severe watery diarrhea. Impaired kidney function can also be seen because of dehydration and shock. Orellanine is a potent nephrotoxin found in fungi like Cortinarius orellanus and Cortinarius speciosissimus (Persson 635). The nephrotoxins in this species target the kidney and can result in organ failure. Treatment may help to restore partial renal function end-stage renal failure is reported in about 10–40% of the cases (Persson 635). Psilocybin is a hallucinogen found in mushrooms like Psilocybe and Panaeolus species.
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