Mold is one of the oldest living organisms on Earth. It appeared 200 million years ago and learned to survive in any conditions: in radiation, Arctic ice and open space. She saves lives and is capable of killing.
Remember the old experiment where a rat must find the right path in a maze to get food. So, as the Japanese scientist Toshuki Nakagaki found out, mold copes with this task just as well. In 2000, he conducted an experiment by placing a mold "Physarum polycephalum" at the entrance to the labyrinth, and a piece of sugar at the exit.
The mold immediately sprouted in the direction of sugar, the spores of the fungus filled the entire space in the labyrinth, bifurcating at every intersection. As soon as any of the processes hit a dead end, he turned back and looked for a way in the other direction. It took the microscopic mushroom only 4 hours to fill all the paths of the maze and find the right path to sugar.
But, what is most interesting, when a piece of mushroom mycelium that had already passed through the labyrinth was pinched off and placed again at the entrance to the labyrinth, putting sugar at the end, one of the sprouts unmistakably chose the shortest path to the exit from the labyrinth and sugar, and the second simply "climbed" along the walls of the labyrinth and crawled along the ceiling. Thus, simple mold revealed not only the rudiments of memory, but also the ability to non-standard way of solving problems, which indicates that the fungus has intelligence.
Mold accompanies us everywhere, it lives in huge colonies in bathrooms, apartments, ventilation shafts, and, what is most unpleasant, in our refrigerators. Therefore, people are used to simply not noticing it. And in vain.
In addition to the fact that the microscopic fungus is capable of destroying entire buildings, it is also poisonous to the human body. In the process of growth, it produces substances that affect the lungs, intestines, and skin. Their spores enter the respiratory tract and "settle" inside us, opening the way for bacteria and viruses. Allergies are almost the most harmless consequence of living with mold as a neighbor. Microscopic fungus can destroy the structure of DNA and lead to cancer.
According to scientists, mold and its poison are practically not excreted from the body. The most dangerous, in this case, is considered to be yellow mold from the genus Aspergillus, which grows on dairy products, fish and nuts. It releases the dangerous substance aflatoxin, which accumulates in the body and after 10 years can cause liver cancer.
Curse of Tutankhamun
At least two mysterious deaths following the discovery by archaeologist Howard Carter of Tut's pristine tomb are today blamed on mold. It turned out that aspergillus niger mold still lived in the tissues of the mummy's lungs, which can become fatal for people with weakened immunity or with a damaged lung system.
The first victim of "Tutankhamun" - the organizer and sponsor of the excavation Lord Carnarvon, long before the discovery of the tomb, had a terrible car accident in which he damaged his lung. He died of pneumonia some time after visiting the tomb. Following him died another participant in the excavation - Arthur Mace, who, by a tragic accident, was seriously ill before the excavation began. Its weakened immune system has become an ideal breeding ground for the lethal qualities of mold.
One of the main and most dangerous properties of mold is its ubiquity. Microscopic fungi are able to survive, without exaggeration, in any conditions. They feel great among the Arctic ice, on the radioactive sarcophagus of the 4th power unit of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, and even in outer space.
So, as part of the Biorisk experiment, which was aimed at studying the effect of outer space conditions on living organisms, three capsules with mold spores Penicillum, Aspergilus and Cladosporium were taken into open space and attached to the casing of the orbital station. The results were simply stunning, mold spores not only survived after six months in outer space, but also mutated, becoming more aggressive and resistant.
And this is not a record yet. The researchers placed molds from the genus Aspergilus Fumigatus in a test tube containing a powerful anti-fungal drug. Part of the colony withstood the blow. And this is despite the fact that the chance of surviving mold under these conditions was exactly the same as that of a person placed in concentrated sulfuric acid.
Mold & Antibiotics
Penicillin, the world's first antibiotic that saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of soldiers during World War II, was first developed by the British bacteriologist Alexander Fleming in 1928 from a strain of the mold fungus Penicillum notatum.
As is the case with most ingenious discoveries, this happened completely by accident. In one of the Petri dishes with staphylococcus bacteria, as a result of improper storage, a gray-green mold has started. Fleming was surprised to find that the unkillable colonies of staphylococci, which took so many lives during the First World War, simply dissolved around this mold. The miracle cure, from which all the wounds of the military were healed literally before our eyes, was modified already during the Second World War. At the presentation of the Nobel Prize to the creators of the panacea - Fleming, Cheyne and Flory, it was said: "Penicillin did more than 25 divisions to win the war!"
Doctors strongly recommend that if the product begins to grow moldy, it must be thrown away. Simply removing the affected area will get you nowhere. If it is soft fruit, bread or jam, then the mycelium has most likely spread to the entire product.
But not all mold that is on food is dangerous. There is also edible mold, with the help of which mankind has been making delicious blue cheeses and camembert for several centuries.
At the beginning of the 15th century, the French king Charles VI gave the inhabitants of the village of Roquefort a monopoly on the production of cheese of the same name in the local limestone caves. The technology has hardly changed since that time. Each loaf of cheese made from sheep's milk is pierced with long needles so that mold spores can enter it. And stable high humidity and low temperatures ensure the rapid growth of mushrooms.
Another popular product made with the help of mold is the French wine Château d'Yquem. For its production, the grapes are struck with "noble rot" - the fungus Bodritis Cinerea, due to which the skin of the berry loses its tightness, the fruit itself wrinkles, but the content becomes more concentrated. Chateau d'Iquem, the favorite wine of the Russian aristocracy of the 19th century, is today one of the most expensive wines in the world.