Is it true that some pharmaceutical drugs come from mushrooms and fungi?

by Kevin
(Croydon, UK)


I'm having a bit of a disagreement with my mate over whether or not some drugs come from fungi. I'm pretty sure they do, but he thinks I'm talking nonsense.

Can you help me out here?


You’re absolutely right.

Penicillin is probably the most famous example. It's an antibiotic derived from the Penicillium fungi. It was first discovered by Alexander Fleming back in the 1920s, and it has saved countless lives since then.

Here are four more drugs derived from fungi, just to make sure you win your argument!

1. Cyclosporine - Cyclosporine is an immunosuppressant drug that is used to prevent organ rejection after transplant surgery. It is derived from the fungus Tolypocladium inflatum, which was discovered in soil samples from Norway in the 1970s.

2. Lovastatin - Lovastatin is a drug used to lower cholesterol levels in the blood. It is derived from the fungus Aspergillus terreus and works by blocking an enzyme that is necessary for the production of cholesterol in the body.

3. Griseofulvin - Griseofulvin is an antifungal drug used to treat infections of the skin, hair, and nails caused by fungi. It is derived from the Penicillium fungi and works by disrupting the formation of fungal cell walls.

4. Lentinan - Lentinan is a polysaccharide extracted from the shiitake mushroom Lentinula edodes and is used as an immunostimulant in cancer treatment. It works by stimulating the immune system to attack cancer cells.

Research is ongoing, and there is an increasing interest in the secrets that fungi hold. In other words, it looks like we’ll be getting a lot more drugs from fungi in the future.


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