Returning from holiday on September 3, 1928, Fleming began to sort through petri dishes containing colonies of Staphylococcus, bacteria that cause boils, sore throats and abscesses. He noticed something unusual on one dish. It was dotted with colonies, save for one area where a blob of mold was growing. The zone immediately around the mold—later identified as a rare strain of Penicillium notatum—was clear, as if the mold had secreted something that inhibited bacterial growth.
Pale only by the e-learning market (2015 – US$75billion), the global antibiotics market (2015 – US$40billion) grew from Dr Alexander Fleming’s mold.
It’s only a cut of the hidden world of fungi technologies that play an important role in our lives and economics. What can fungi technologies do in our present world?
Various mushroom varieties possess potent anti-microbial properties.
The author notes that a,
“moldy cantaloupe sent to an army research lab in 1941”,
…led to the identification and extraction of strains of penicillium chrysogenum that led to the commercial synthesis of penicillin.
Mr. Stamets’ own research led to the discovery that the extract of mycelium from the mushroom Fomitopsis officinalis,
“protects human blood cells from infection by orthopox viruses including the family of viruses that includes smallpox.”
Specific varieties of mushrooms possess antiviral activity against such viruses as,
tobacco mosaic virus
A useful table lists various mushrooms and their antiviral activities.
Several varieties of mushrooms are sources of other medicinal compounds including triterpenoids and glycoproteins. Pages 38-39 provide a cross index of Mushrooms and Targeted Therapeutic Effects including mushroom activity against specific cancers.
Mr. Stamets presents strong evidence that fungi from old growth forests have potential as sources for new and vital medicines. And he emphasizes the essential importance of preserving this priceless resource.
Part II – Mycorestoration
In Mycorestoration the author presents his original thought, theories and research into how mycelium and their fruit, mushrooms, can be harnessed for uses that support the health of humans and our ailing planet.
In this fascinating section of the book, the author presents the reader with “fungal opportunities underfoot”.
These original concepts are presented in four forms:
is defined as the selective use of fungi to repair or restore the weakened immune systems of environments.
uses mycelium as a membrane to catch and filter upstream contaminants including microorganisms, pollutants and silt. Talk about filtration capacity, Mr. Stamets says that “more than a mile of mycelial cells can infuse a gram of soil”.
The text illustrates how we can use mycelium on farms, in our own urban and suburban environments, in watershed districts, in factories, on roads and other stressed habitats to filter protozoa, bacteria, viruses, bacteria, silt and chemical toxins.
Mycelial mats, called “bunker spawn” mature in months and can be used for years to prevent downstream pollution. Mr. Stamets discusses his own research in microfiltration and presents directions for building and installing mycelium microfilters.
is the use of fungi to sustain forest communities by preserving natural forests, recycling woodland debris, sustaining replanted trees with the goal of strengthening the forest ecosystem.
Mr. Stamets emphasizes that contrary to conventional thought our forests are not “renewable” resources and discusses how carbon cycles that fuel the food chain can take centuries, if not thousands of years to establish.
For example, in Oregon a honey mushroom mat found on a mountaintop covered over 2400 acres and is thought to be about 2200 years old. “Nurse” logs in this forest increase soil depth and enrich the habitat for the fungi, plant and animal kingdoms.
The reader must wonder how many regions like this exist on planet earth today.
According to the author, acceleration of this process is possible by using wood chips as a spawning medium for fungi. This method has the potential to prevent forest fires because as mycelium grows on the wood chips they draw moisture to the forest floor in a sponge like way.
Mr. Stamets urges forest pathologists to develop strategies that utilize mycelium to improve forest health.
is the use of fungi to degrade or remove toxins from the environment.
According to the author fungi can be used to degrade heavy metals including lead, and mercury, industrial toxins including chlorine, dioxin, PCBs and organophosphates.
This potential is viewed in the perspective of the hierarchy of organisms in the fungi, plant, bacterium and animal kingdoms, a hierarchy which begins and ends with fungi.
Photos in this chapter illustrate diesel contaminated soil “under attack” by oyster mushrooms which thrive on the contaminated soil and regenerate it by neutralizing the contaminant. When they die and rot they provide a healthy environment for new plant growth. The contaminated soil in which mushroom growth was not introduced remained just that, barren and contaminated.
The goal of mycorestoration is to match fungi species to contaminants to enable the “destruction of toxins that enable other restoration strategies”.
involve the use of fungi to control pest populations, including carpenter ants and termites. Mr. Stamets relates a personal story of how he used mycelium as a natural pesticide to rid his house of carpenter ants.
He has applied for patents to use this biotechnology which protect groundwater and habitats from damage by conventional toxic pesticides, as a natural method of eliminating termites, ants and flies.
He calls the technology “green mycotechnology”.