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By the end of this section, you will be able to:
  • Describe fungal parasites and pathogens of plants
  • Describe the different types of fungal infections in humans
  • Explain why antifungal therapy is hampered by the similarity between fungal and animal cells

Parasitism describes a symbiotic relationship in which one member of the association benefits at the expense of the other. Both parasites and pathogens harm the host; however, the pathogen causes a disease, whereas the parasite usually does not. Commensalism occurs when one member benefits without affecting the other.

Plant parasites and pathogens

The production of sufficient good-quality crops is essential to human existence. Plant diseases have ruined crops, bringing widespread famine. Many plant pathogens are fungi that cause tissue decay and eventual death of the host ( [link] ). In addition to destroying plant tissue directly, some plant pathogens spoil crops by producing potent toxins. Fungi are also responsible for food spoilage and the rotting of stored crops. For example, the fungus Claviceps purpurea causes ergot, a disease of cereal crops (especially of rye). Although the fungus reduces the yield of cereals, the effects of the ergot's alkaloid toxins on humans and animals are of much greater significance. In animals, the disease is referred to as ergotism. The most common signs and symptoms are convulsions, hallucination, gangrene, and loss of milk in cattle. The active ingredient of ergot is lysergic acid, which is a precursor of the drug LSD. Smuts, rusts, and powdery or downy mildew are other examples of common fungal pathogens that affect crops.

Part A show fungal parasites on grapefruit. Part B show fungal parasites on a zinnia. Part C show fungal parasites on a sheaf of barley. Parts D show fungal parasites on grapes.
Some fungal pathogens include (a) green mold on grapefruit, (b) powdery mildew on a zinnia, (c) stem rust on a sheaf of barley, and (d) grey rot on grapes. In wet conditions Botrytis cinerea, the fungus that causes grey rot, can destroy a grape crop. However, controlled infection of grapes by Botrytis results in noble rot, a condition that produces strong and much-prized dessert wines. (credit a: modification of work by Scott Bauer, USDA-ARS; credit b: modification of work by Stephen Ausmus, USDA-ARS; credit c: modification of work by David Marshall, USDA-ARS; credit d: modification of work by Joseph Smilanick, USDA-ARS)

Aflatoxins are toxic, carcinogenic compounds released by fungi of the genus Aspergillus . Periodically, harvests of nuts and grains are tainted by aflatoxins, leading to massive recall of produce. This sometimes ruins producers and causes food shortages in developing countries.

Animal and human parasites and pathogens

Fungi can affect animals, including humans, in several ways. A mycosis    is a fungal disease that results from infection and direct damage. Fungi attack animals directly by colonizing and destroying tissues. Mycotoxicosis is the poisoning of humans (and other animals) by foods contaminated by fungal toxins (mycotoxins). Mycetismus describes the ingestion of preformed toxins in poisonous mushrooms. In addition, individuals who display hypersensitivity to molds and spores develop strong and dangerous allergic reactions. Fungal infections are generally very difficult to treat because, unlike bacteria, fungi are eukaryotes. Antibiotics only target prokaryotic cells, whereas compounds that kill fungi also harm the eukaryotic animal host.

Questions & Answers

what is hormones
Igwe Reply
hormon is the chemical messanger
Sneha
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Taperah
21ecological instrument and their diagrams
Ayomide Reply
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Immaculate Reply
kidney stones
Gracelyne
it is a disease that affects the kidney
Miriam
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Gracelyne
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Jackson Reply
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Jackson
hypothesis is a proposed explanation for a phenomenon
Miriam
hypothesis is raw materials
KP
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KP
biology is the study of living things and their interaction with their environment
Miriam
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Amira Reply
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God Reply
fatal familial insomnia which affects the thalamus
Miriam
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Miriam
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Thomas Reply
it is any thing that has weight and occupies space
Anye
matter is any substances that occupies spaces and has mass
Jackson
describe photosynthesis
Mavis Reply
What is equilibrium
Mavis
What is equilibrium
Mavis
like corporal intern balance right?
FRANCISCA
on my own understanding is just a balanced state
Stanley
photosynthesis is the process by which plants and other organisms convert light energy to chemical energy
Miriam
what is a chromosome?
Wise Reply
Are thread-like structures located inside the nucleus of animal and plant cells.
Canab
thx
Wise
what are the difference between Biotic community and Ecological nitche.
Ganiyat Reply
what is the celll
KAMOLIKA Reply
A cell is the simplest bit of living matter that exist independently
Ganiyat
cell is the basic unit of life
Shadrack
what is ecdysis
Shadrack
what is genetics
Sebastian Reply
The cell is the simplest bit of living matter that can exist independently.
Ganiyat
what happenes when the cell of an organism Is removed?
Isaac Reply
The cell will not function properly
Eunice
what is cell
Maarig Reply
cell is stractural and functional unit of our human body.
Rohini
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Source:  OpenStax, Biology. OpenStax CNX. Feb 29, 2016 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11448/1.10
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