Medical Research Council and University of Exeter

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Listen

Welcome to Fungicast! Our podcast series exploring topical issues relating to medical mycology and the wider world of fungi with our researchers and special invited guests.

Episode 1:

What do dinosaurs, Alexander the Great, and Napoleon have in common?

Join host Sarah Campbell as she explores the potency, power and potential of fungi with Professor Neil Gow, a lead researcher at the MRC Centre for Medical Mycology, and Merlin Sheldrake, biologist and author of the excellent 2020 book Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds, and Shape Our Futures. The conversation delves into some big fungal questions, including how fungi can coax us towards a more interconnected world-view, and what role fungi might play in the climate crisis.

Episode 2:

Researching fungal infections in children 

Over half of people with the condition Cystic Fibrosis have the fungus Aspergillus in their lungs, which can cause problems with breathing and lead to very reduced lung function. This disease particularly impacts on children, and in this episode of Fungicast, Paediatric Infectious Diseases Specialist Professor Adilia Warris, a Co-Director of the MRC Centre for Medical Mycology, discusses the research being undertaken with colleagues at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital, and St George’s Hospital London, to improve the outcomes for children. Prof. Warris is joined by MRC Centre for Medical Mycology Clinical Research Fellows and hospital consultants Dr Emily Chesshyre, and Dr Laura Ferreras-Antolin.

Episode 3:

Did fungi help to kill the dinosaurs?

Eminent microbiologist Professor Arturo Casadevall of John Hopkins University in the USA is a leading proponent of the theory that microscopic fungi played a role in the downfall of the mighty dinosaur. In this episode of Fungicast, Professor Gordon Brown, Director of the MRC Centre for Medical Mycology and Prof. Casadevall discuss this theory, and what it might tell us about the fungal threat to humans on a warming planet in the 21st Century.

Watch

Watch longer talks given by our scientists on their research into medical mycology. These talks are aimed at audiences age 14+.

We will add more talks here so please check back for updates.

Talk 1:

How does our immune response combat ‘hidden killers’?

Dr Peter Cook

This talk was recorded in 2020 during lockdown, for the University of Exeter’s ‘Discover University’ programme for prospective students.  

Our immune response has a huge challenge: it has to continually respond and clear ‘germs’ to ensure we stay fit and healthy. Traditionally, when we think of germs most people tend to think of bacteria, parasites or viruses. However, infections caused by fungi are a huge burden on global health, as highlighted by the fact that more people die from these compared to malaria and tuberculosis. Despite this, fungal infections remain understudied compared to these other infectious diseases and there is much we do not understand.

Dr Peter Cook is a Wellcome Trust Sir Henry Dale Fellow at the MRC Centre for Medical Mycology. Peter’s research focuses on understanding how the lung-airway environment influences innate immunity to mediate anti-fungal allergic disease, a recognised key neglected area of research.

Talk 2:

My life with a Killer Fungus!

Professor Neil Gow

This talk was recorded in 2020 during lockdown, for the University of Exeter’s ‘Britain Needs Scientists’ programme for prospective students.  

Professor Neil Gow is Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research and Impact and Professor of Microbiology at the University of Exeter.  His research speciality is in medical mycology and in particular the study of the structure and immunology of fungi that cause life-threatening infections.  He is a Fellow of the Royal Society, the Academy of Medical Sciences, Royal Society of Edinburgh and American Academy of Microbiology and has acted as President of four major international societies of mycology and microbiology.

Do

Create your own experiments!

The ‘DIY’ experiments in this downloadable activity pack are suitable for ages 5 – 14 and are designed for use by families, schools, and groups such as Scouts and Guides.

We would love to know how you get on with your experiments! Please drop us a line and share your science adventures with us.

If you would like to try more fungi focused activities the British Mycological Society have created a fantastic booklet of learning resources here.

A happy scientist happy to talk answer questions

Ask a Medical Mycologist

Whether you’re thinking about your GCSE’s, deciding whether to apply for university, or are just curious about medical mycology, we are here to answer your questions.

Please ask your question here and we will match you to a researcher who will respond within one week.

Invite us to talk to your group

Invite a Medical Mycologist to talk to your group

Please get in touch if you would like a researcher to talk to your community, we can arrange talks and outreach events for all ages. This is usually fully funded by our Centre.

Our quiz is designed to test your medical mycology knowledge!

Top tip – you might want to watch this talk and interview with Dr. Peter Cook before you challenge yourself.

Results

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#1. What is medical mycology?

#2. How long can a helminth parasite worm grow to in your gut?

#3. Which of these is not a species of fungi?

#4. What does mycoses mean?

#5. How many people die of fungal infections every year?

#6. How do fungi get into the body? (give three ways)

#7. Where do fungi live in our bodies?

#8. In which creature have scientists made important discoveries about how our immune responses keeps us safe. This research was awarded the Novel Prize in 2011.

#9. What are the four signs of inflammation?

#10. Phagocytosis comes from the Greek word for what?

#11. Who is the leader of the Centre for Medical Mycology?

finish

Join a project

When we are running live projects that involve the public, we will advertise those opportunities on this website.

Currently, we are running a clinical trial as part of the cASPerCF project, to test an antifungal medication called posaconazole with children and young people. We are conducting ‘patient and public involvement’ as part of this project. This means that we are inviting children and young people with Cystic Fibrosis to take part in the shaping of the study, and in the dissemination of its results. If you are the parent of a child with Cystic Fibrosis and would like to know more about how to get involved, please contact Jacob Bradbury.