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What are some harmful effects of fungi?

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Quick Answer

While not all fungi cause harmful effects, some species cause disease or produce toxins. Among the harmful fungi are those of the Aspergillus and Fusarium genera. Fungal diseases generally have the most harmful effects on people with compromised immune systems.

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Aspergillus causes Aspergillosis. The fungus is common in rotting leaves, compost piles, stored grains and the leaves of marijuana plants. While rare in healthy individuals, Aspergillosis often occurs in people who suffer damage to their lungs from other diseases.

Aspergillosis forms a fungus ball in scar tissue caused by past diseases. Symptoms include cough, fever, malaise, weight loss and wheezing. If the disease does not respond to treatment, it leads to death. Even when patients respond successfully to treatment, the infection sometimes returns later.

Indoor molds cause a wide variety of symptoms including sinus irritation, difficulty breathing, headaches and skin irritations. In the very young, elderly and other vulnerable populations, research links mold to cancer, bleeding disorders and neurotoxicity. However, the clinical relevance of exposure requires more research, and acceptable levels of exposure require further definition, as of 2015.

Fungal damage to crops causes economic damage to farmers and food producers. This damage reduces the amount of available food to consumers and increases the cost of production.

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