Fungal Infections

March 1, 2012

Definition of Fungus

Definition of Fungus

Fungus: A single-celled or multicellular organism. Fungi can be true pathogens (such as histoplasmosis and coccidioidomycosis) that cause infections in healthy persons or they can be opportunistic pathogens (such as aspergillosiscandidiasis, and cryptococcosis) that cause infections in immunocompromised persons (including cancer patients, transplant recipients, and persons with AIDS). An example of a common fungus is the yeast organism which causesthrush and diaper rash (diaper dermatitis). Fungi are also used for the development of antibiotics, antitoxins, and other drugs used to control various human diseases.


October 29, 2008

Fungal Infections in Children

Filed under: fungal infections — Tags: , , , , , , — patoconnor @ 1:09 pm

Fungal Infections in Children

What do you think of when you hear the word fungus? Do you think of mushrooms? A mushroom is one type of fungus, but fungus also refers to a type of germ that lives on all of us.

This germ is harmless most of the time, but sometimes it can cause a problem called a fungal infection (say: fung-gul in-fek-shun). It sounds gross, but don’t worry or feel embarrassed. A lot of people get fungal infections, but they’re usually easy to treat becuase a fungus rarely spreads below the skin. If you get one of these infections, before you know it, you’ll be saying bye-bye to fungi (say: fung-guy).

What Is a Fungal Infection?
Fungi, the word for more than one fungus, can be found on different parts of the body. Here are some common types of fungal infections:

Tinea (say: tih-nee-uh) is a type of fungal infection of the hair, skin, or nails. When it’s on the skin, tinea usually begins as a small red area the size of a pea. As it grows, it spreads out in a circle or ring. Tinea is often called ringworm because it may look like tiny worms are under the skin (but of course, they’re not!). Because the fungi that cause tinea (ringworm) live on different parts of the body, they are named for the part of the body they infect. Scalp ringworm is found on the head, and body ringworm affects the arms, legs, or chest.

Athlete’s foot is another type of fungal infection that usually appears between the toes but can also affect toenails and the bottom or sides of the feet.

Jock itch is a fungal infection of the groin and upper thighs. You might think only men and boys get it, but girls and women can get it, too. 


(say: kan-duh-duh) is a yeast, similar to a fungus. It most often affects the skin around the nails or the soft, moist areas around body openings. Diaper rash in babies is one type of candidal infection, as is thrush (white patches often found in the mouths of babies.) Older girls and women may develop another form of candidal infection in and around the vagina. This is called a yeast infection.

Why Do Kids Get Fungal Infections?
Lots of kids get fungal infections. Kids love to share and hang out together. Some of these infections are  contagious (say: kon-tay-jus), which means they easily spread from person to person. Close contact or sharing a comb or hairbrush with someone who has tinea can spread the fungus from one person to another. Because fungi need a warm, dark, and humid place to grow, public showers, pools, locker rooms, and even the warmth of shoes and socks can give fungi the perfect opportunity to strike. 

Taking antibiotics can cause some kids to get a yeast infection. Antibiotics get rid of germs that make us sick, but they can also kill many of the harmless bacteria in our body. These harmless bacteria normally fight with the yeast for a place to live, but when antibiotics kill them, the yeast is free to grow.

Sometimes, a fungus may infect kids if they have an immune system disorder (this means their bodies can’t fight certain types of infections). This is rare, but it does happen.

How Do I Know If I Have a Fungal Infection?

There aredoctor. Here are some signs you and a parent can look for:

  • Athlete’s foot causes symptoms that include red, dry, cracked, and itchy skin between the toes. Some people also have red, scaly bumps filled with pus on the bottoms and sides of their feet.
  • Jock itch appears as a rash with elevated edges. It’s itchy and often feels like it is burning. It’s pretty common, especially if you play sports. Sweating and wearing athletic equipment can bring on this kind of rash. 
  • Ringworm of the head begins as a small pimple or scaly patch that looks like dandruff. The pimple or patch becomes larger and the hair in the infected area can become brittle and break off. This can create scaly patches of baldness, but the hair will grow back. If you have ringworm on your arms, legs, or chest, you may see small, red spots that grow into large rings.
  • Candida, the yeast, causes the skin around the infected area to itch. The skin may also be red and swollen.

Farewell to Fungus!
Getting rid of a fungal infection is not that difficult. Your doctor may decide to scrape a small amount of the irritated skin or clip off a piece of hair or nail and look at it under a microscope. Once your doctor knows what kind of infection you have, there are special antifungal creams and shampoos that can help to get rid of it. Sometimes the doctor will prescribe a
medicine to take. Make sure you take the medicine for as long as the doctor tells you.

Maybe fungal infections can’t be avoided altogether, but there are some ways you can help yourself ward them off.

Walk away from athlete’s foot by:

  • Washing your feet every day.
  • Drying your feet completely, especially between your toes.
  • Wearing sandals or shower shoes when walking around in locker rooms, public pools, and public showers.
  • Wearing clean socks. If they get wet or damp, be sure to change them as soon as you can.
  • Using a medicated powder on your feet to help reduce perspiration. (Ask a parent first.)

You can ditch jock itch by: 

  • Wearing clean, cotton underwear and loose-fitting pants.
  • Keeping your groin area clean and dry.

Prevent beastly yeast infections by:

  • Changing out of wet swimsuits instead of lounging around in them. 
  • Wearing clean, cotton underpants.

There may always be a “fungus among us,” but we can make it a lot tougher for them to invade and grow!

Reviewed by: Patrice Hyde, MD
Date reviewed: May 2004

Kids Health

What is a Fungus?

Filed under: fungal infections — Tags: , , — patoconnor @ 12:56 pm

What is a Fungus?

Introduction to Fungi

Non-Technical Introduction to the World of Fungi and Mycology

Fungi are plant-like organisms that lack chlorophyll. Fungi are one of the five kingdoms of life. Many fungi are good and useful (edible mushrooms would be an example of these) while some cause problems (some fungi can injure plants and people). There are over 100,000 species of fungi. Mycologists are the scientists who study fungus. Medical mycologists study drugs to cure fungal infections, while agricultural and research mycologists study the industrial uses of fungi.Saccharomyces cereviseae is used to make the alcohol in beer. This same fungus is used when we make bread–without its help, we would have flat bread. Without fungi, we would have piles of trash everywhere because fungi get food from our trash. They eat the trash and make it into soil. That is why we do not live in a landfill! For more on this, you might also enjoy Tom Volk’s notes on fungi that are required for a Merry Christmas.Tinea or Dermatomycosis. Ringworm can be found all over the world

Since they do not have chlorophyll, fungi must absorb food from others. Since they don’t use light to make food, fungi can live in damp and dark places. Fungi are supposed to “eat” things when they are dead but sometimes they start eating when the organism is still alive. That is when mycologists come in to figure out what to give to the infected patient or plant to get rid of the fungus.

Good fungus can help with many things to make the world a better place. Out of the many kinds of fungi, the ones we love to eat are mushrooms. We put them on pizza, burgers, salads, and more. During Lent, for those who give up meat, restaurants serve mushroom balls instead of meatballs on spaghetti. Fungi can even make some big things happen in food. For example, a yeast fungus called

Bad fungus is just good fungus trying to do its job way too early to an organism. Most commonly, fungi cause something to happen on the skin of animals or people. This is sometimes called Ringworm, but there is no worm involved! Ringworm can also be called

It mostly forms on the foot and scalp. Some Ringworm is Anthropophilic. Anthropophilic means human (anthro- think of anthropology) loving (-philic), and you catch this fungus from other people. Ringworm can also be Zoophilic or Geophilic. Zoophilic means animal (zoo- just think of going to a real zoo) loving, and this is a fungus you may catch from your pet. Geophilic means earth (geo- as in geology, or the earth) loving, of course you get this one from the soil.allergies. Over 37 million people have allergies and many of them are caused by fungus. Buildings can also get sick. Buildings can get some fungi known as Penicillium and Stachybotrys. They float in the air and can cause watery eyes and breathing problems.Ustilago maydis. Among others are Microbotryum violaceum (formerly known as Ustilago violacea) that infects Caryophyllaceae including Silene species, and Tilletia caries that infects wheat.A discussion from, including a recipe for smut soup!
A discussion of smuts from Tom Volk’s website
A teaching example for the National Association of Biology Teachers

Ringworm is the kind of fungus that gets on the body, but some fungus just irritates the body. Fungus irritates the nose and causes

We also have smut fungi. These fungi live in the soil and are plant parasites. The name “smut” refers to the ripe galls filled with dark sooty spores that are formed when the fungus infests a plant. The most well-known smut fungus is the corn smut,

The growing parts of the corn, including the base of the internodes, the base and the midrib of leaves, and young ears are susceptible to be infected by the smut fungus. Eventually, the fungus produces tumor-like masses on the infected plant which are covered with silvery-white or greenish-white layer. These masses are filled with powdery, darkened spores. These darkened spores, also known as teliospores, are resting spores and help the fungus to resist dry climates and low temperatures. They are either splashed by rain or blown by heavy winds. The teliospores germinate in spring and produce basidiospores which are the actual infective particles.

The smut fungus is not all bad! While it is a remarkable hazard for the farmers, it is consumed as a tasty food in some parts of the world! Smut fungus is sold canned in Mexico and America and is known as “cuitlacoche” or “huitlacoche” in Mexico.

You may also want to visit other websites for more information on smut fungi:


To cure fungal infections, mycologists use a drug from one of these families of drugs: Allylamines, antimetabolites, azoles, glucan synthesis inhibitors, polyenes, and others.Kingdoms of life, and the term fungus refers generically to all members of theKingdom Fungi. There are more than a million species of fungi, but only about 400 cause diseases relevant to man, animals, or plants. These organisms are the subject of this web site. The majority of the pathogenic species are classified within the Phyla Zygomycota, Basidiomycota, Ascomycota, or the form group Fungi Imperfecti. Fungi (the singular form is ‘fungus’), including those pathogenic to humans and animals, are eukaryotic spelled with a ‘u’. While not mutually exclusive, mould spores germinate to produce the branching filaments known as hyphae. Yeasts, on the other hand, are solitary rounded forms that reproduce by making more rounded forms through such mechanisms as budding or fission. For more details on fungal classification, see our discussion of Taxonomy and Nomenclature.

Finally, fungi can be helpful and not helpful, but they all are important and required in life. Fungi are one of the earth’s big recyclers. Without them we could not live, and sometimes humans die because of them, but they are very important and required in life.

(Editorial note: The preceeding section was contributed by a 6th grader who prepared the text as an English class writing assignment. If you or your class prepare fungus-related materials that are suitable for the web and that might be of interest to others, please contact us. We’d love to discuss posting your work!)

Somewhat More Technical Introduction to the Fungi   All living things can be classified into one of five fundamental

Classically, there are two broad groups of fungi: yeasts and moulds. Note that mould

The nuclei of all fungi, like that of other eukaryotic organisms, contains a nucleolus and several chromosomes that are bound by a nuclear membrane. Hyphal cells in septate hyphae may be uninucleate, binucleate, or multinucleate. For the most part, cellular and nuclear division are independent events, especially with respect to vegetative growth. As in other eukaryotic organisms, fungi have mitochondria, 80S ribosomes, and centrioles.

The cell wall of fungi consist of chitin, chitosan, glucan, mannan, other components in various combinations. Fungi are carbon heterotrophs, therefore they require preformed organic compounds as carbon sources. Fungi do not contain chlorophyll.

As an important contrast, the actinomycetes are prokaryotic gram positive filamentous bacteria. Historically, because of their microscopic morphology, some actinomycetes have been studied by medical mycologists. However, they are quite different from fungi. The actinomycetes serve as a host to bacteriophages, whereas fungi cannot serve as their host. These organisms are sensitive to antibacterial agents such as penicillin, but not to antimycotic agents such as amphotericin B, the opposite is true for fungi.

For more information about fungi, mycology, or medical mycology, please consult our:

Dr. Fungus

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