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Fungus Roundup

November 11, 2005

Fungus seems to have something of a Jekyll-and-Hyde personality–sometimes good, sometimes bad.


Fungi—friend or foe? I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

The average used pillow houses more than a million fungus spores, according to a new study in the journal Allergy. And some of them are potentially dangerous, including one that is a leading cause of death in patients with severely weakened immune systems. The same fungus can also worsen asthma. People at risk can reduce their exposure by replacing pillows frequently and sealing them in non-porous cases.

In happier fungus news, scientists report in the journal Nature that they have identified a new type of antibiotic in a fungus found in European pine trees. In the laboratory, the antibiotic was effective against meningitis, pneumonia, and strep throat. The researchers plan to hunt for more antibiotics in the world’s 200,000 species of fungus.
I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.