Microbiology

Fungal Dispersal Mechanisms



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Fungi are eukaryotic organisms that could be found in air, water and soil. They can be harmful or harmless. They are often called the "garbage disposers" because they feed on rotting, organic matter in the environment.

Fungi dispersal mechanisms differ in some ways for each of the five (5) phyla. In order to understand this, we have first to know the characteristics of a fungus and the different phyla classified under it.

The classifications of the phyla according to their methods of reproduction are: Zygomycotina, Chytridiomycotina, Ascomycotina, Basidiomycotina, and Deuteromycotina.

The first two are considered as lower fungi and are aseptate. The next two are the higher fungi, while the last phyla are considered the fungi Imperfecti which are very useful in the medical field as sources of antibiotics.

Since they do not have an apparent means of locomotion like pseudopodia, cilia and flagella, they are, in other words, "dispersed" into the environment.

What are the mechanisms of fungal dispersion?

1. Fungi causing bread molds and food spoilage usually belong to the class Zymycotina. These are dispersed through their filaments or hyphae which extend over the surface of the material it is growing on. It is through spore formation that it reproduces.

We commonly call these fungi growth on food and water as molds.

They are dispersed when they got blown by air, or through fungi infected water, or get transferred through contact with the mold itself.

2. Some fungi, like the mushroom, (yes the mushroom is a fungi, not a plant), are dispersed from their spores, which may travel through air, soil or water, or in direct contact from one medium to another. This would also bring about a new growth, just like a plant seed.

Some mushrooms are edible and some are not. The edible ones are even considered as special dishes in some countries. The non-edible ones produce toxins, like in Ergot poisoning, where mold-contaminated wheat are ingested by man. The condition would start from nausea, high fever, convulsions, gangrene and eventually death.

3. Dispersal of fungi that are present in human infections, like Candia albicans, Blastomyces dermatitidis or Aspergillus species is done through skin to skin contact.

4. Yeasts are found in food (skins of fruits, vegetables), soil and water. They are very useful in the manufacture of alcoholic beverages because they break down sugars to cause fermentation.

Opportunistic yeasts are also found in humans. They live harmlessly in the skin, mouth and genitor-urinary tract and only cause disease when there is a decrease in the indigenous bacteria in these organs.

They can be dispersed through inhalation of contaminated air or soil. They could also enter through wounds.

Dispersal of the yeast could be done also through dried feces of both birds and bats. When these contaminated materials are blown by air or come in contact with food, the yeast are further spread into the environment.

In conclusion, fungi could be dispersed through budding, spore dispersal, contaminated water, soil and direct contact. It must be noted that these organisms could be both beneficial and pathogenic and these should be considered when treating fungi related conditions.

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