Fungal diseases

Not all fungi cause disease. Yeast is a single-celled fungus that is economically important because we use it to make things like bread and beer. Not all fungi are single-celled. Some such as mushrooms are multicellular and so much larger. These are still made of tiny cells like yeast, but have many more of them. Fungal cells have a nucleus and so are eukaryotic.

Athlete's foot

A picture of toes covered in sore cracked skin due to athlete's foot
Athlete's foot is caused by a fungus

Athlete's foot is a rash caused by a fungus that is usually found between people's toes. It causes dry, red and flaky or white, wet and cracked skin. It is often found in communal areas like swimming pool changing rooms or gyms. It is transmitted by touching infected skin or surfaces that have been previous contaminated. It is treated by antifungal medication.

Chalara ash dieback

A species of fungus called Hymenoscyphus fraxineus infects ash trees. Infected plants suffer the following symptoms:

  • leaf loss
  • die back of new shoots
  • bark lesions.
A plant affected by ash dieback disease
A plant affected by ash dieback disease

This species of pathogenic fungus is relatively new to the UK. It was first found in 2012. The fungus spreads through the air, so we call it an airborne infection. Since 2012 it has spread to about one third of all large woodlands in the UK.

Scientists are not yet sure how quickly this fungus will spread of what its full impact will be on our ash population. They are trying to identify the genetic factors that mean that some ash trees are naturally resistant to the fungus.