From the start of humanity, fungi have been strongly related to medicine. They were identified as causal agents of human disease, such as skin infections. As a consequence, fungi's medical potential was neglected for a while. However, they have also revolutionized medicine throughout history and their contributions to drug discovery and development are becoming more and more fascinating every day.
How many times were you prescribed antibiotics? And how many of those times that antibiotic was penicillin? Probably your answer is "a lot". Our beloved penicillin is obtained from a fungi in the Penicillium genus and was first discovered by Alexander Fleming back in 1928. Fleming found penicillin by accident when a few of his culture dishes got contaminated with some mold. What had been considered "a nuisance" until that moment, ended up being one of the greatest medical events in history.
Penicillin might sound like ancient history, but fungi are always up to date. In a world where mental health awareness has taken on greater importance among society, fungi amaze us once again. Psilocybin is a well-known psychedelic present in over 100 species of mushrooms, many falling within the genus Psilocybe. Although Psilocybin was demonized and marginalized during the 60s because of its use outside clinical research, it turns out it was not all about tripping. Many scientific studies nowadays indicate that psilocybin might be a game changer for major depression, anxiety, addictions, and PTSD. The administration of psilocybin in conjunction with psychotherapy has shown a significant improvement for people experiencing these conditions, including a long term effect and cases of remission. Although these trials are still small, they have taken the term “magical mushrooms” to another level.
Estimated fungal biodiversity vastly exceeds the number of species we currently know. With this in mind, we can imagine a world of possibilities in terms of novel bioactive fungal products that could potentially save lives.