What Is Fungus?

Fungus sounds like something you really don’t want to have, but is that really true?

There are different types of fungus (fungi), and many of them are misunderstood.

They live all over the world, in habitats of extremely high and extremely low temperatures, and everywhere in-between. Fungi can be found in oceans, lakes, soil, deserts and — yes — in our shoes.

Experts say there are up to 1.5 million types of fungi.

Is Fungus a plant or an animal?

The surprising answer is: neither.

Fungi were originally classified as plants.

They share much in common; both grow in soil, both are permanently attached and do not move, their cells have a cell wall (unlike animals). But their paths also diverge. Fungus has no chlorophyll, it cannot produce its own food, and it instead relies on absorbing nutrients from its surroundings.

Fungi have since been categorised in to their own kingdom: The Kingdom Fungi.

Neither plant nor animal.

When you think of fungus, you might think back to the mushrooms you’ve had for dinner, or the truffles you’ve seen on sale for eyewatering prices in the supermarket.

Wild fungi are known for their ability to tick the box of Delicious… but sometimes they can be Deadly and Poisonous, too.

Note: Always be careful when deciding what is or isn’t an edible fungus!

Other people will associate fungus with bathroom mold, or an abandoned house, or the process of decomposition (for which fungi are so important).

There are far too many types of fungi to say simply: Fungus Good, or Fungus Bad.

Do fungi live on humans?

Yes, and that’s not such a bad thing.

Only around half of the known fungi are harmful. Some are even used in medicine; in the antibiotic penicillin, for example.

If you are on this site, there’s a good chance that you are suffering from (or concerned about) a toenail infection.

This is by far the most common form of fungal infection to affect humans, and it should come as no surprise considering our feet are home to over 200 different types of fungi species!

That’s more than on any other part of the body.

Again, most fungus found on our feet is harmless.

The fungus only causes a problem if it spreads and turns in to an infection.

Two very common foot ailments are a result of this process:

Tinea — This is a fungal infection of the hair, skin or nails. The initially affected skin is often red, and small (about the size of a pea), but as the infection develops, it spreads out in little circles or rings — leading to what can look like tiny worms under the skin. You may often hear tinea referred to as Ringworm.

Athlete’s Foot — This is another very common fungal infection that affects the toes, nails and feet. It causes inflammation of the webs and soles of our feet. Fungus loves the warm and moist environment of showers and locker room floors, where it can easily spread, leading to the association of ‘Athlete’s foot‘.

If you are suffering from a fungal infection, the first step is: don’t panic, and don’t be ashamed.

All of us are carrying some fungus on our feet, and an estimated 10% of adults will suffer from toenail fungus at some point in their lives.

It is a very common — if unpleasant — condition.

Refer back to our guide to getting rid of toenail fungus infections if you are looking to start treatment today.