The influenza virus brings about flu in humans. Likewise, there are many viruses that make fungi ill. We call them Mycoviruses or Fungal viruses.


Are you annoyed by getting the flu every fall and wondering why it always happens to you? Well, it does not happen to you alone. There are fungi out there coughing and sneezing just like you. Though it is strange, yes, fungi get sick too. The influenza virus brings about flu in humans. Likewise, there are many viruses that make fungi ill. We call them Mycoviruses or Fungal viruses.

We must have read about bacteriophages, animal viruses, and plant viruses in our textbooks since childhood. But there is another incredible kingdom that is attacked by viruses too. That kingdom is the kingdom of fungi.

This covert attack was revealed for the first time in 1948 when La France’s mushroom farm suffered a loss. Before that, these fungal viruses remained unnoticed, as the majority of them are symptomless. How these viruses originated and got to infect fungi remains a mystery. All we know are the miracles attributed to these mycoviruses.








                                                                                                 -ROBERT FROST-

Who among us is not familiar with the devastation caused by fungal pathogens in crops? In 2005, the journal Nature Reviews Microbiology published an article disclosing how these viruses secretly reduce the ability of their host fungi to cause disease in plants.

Using one pathogen to control another is appealing both ecologically and economically. Incredibly, sick fungi serve as a potential biocontrol agent to combat plant diseases. Interestingly, you are less productive when you get the flu, but fungi are not.

Switching from bad to good credit: Nature Reviews Microbiology

Imagine someone getting prettier when sick. When the flu virus attacks fungi, it sometimes causes fungal growth. Yes, viruses improve the aesthetics of fungi.

When you become ill, you become ill-tempered. You don’t let anyone get close to you. That’s exactly what fungi do. Fungus, specifically yeast, when ill with the viruses produce killer toxins that do not allow any other fungus in the vicinity to grow.

You might get a fever when you have the flu, but when you get the flu, fungi help to fight high temperatures. In 2007, the journal Science published a fascinating study showing that flu-infected fungus helps a special type of grass (panic grass) survive high temperatures. Thus, these poor creatures suffering from virus infections help us fight one of the greatest problems of our time, global warming.

The flu mostly accompanies fever. Fever is a sign that your body’s immune response is activated to counter the flu virus. Similarly, fungi have immune responses too. They don’t let viruses slay them easily. They have an RNA silencing mechanism to silence the RNA genome of viruses. Scientists have been exploring this defence mechanism so that it can be exploited at its best.

The wonders of sick fungi do not stop here. Have you ever thought that you can use sick fungi to treat a sick human being? Yes, these fungal viruses are harmless to humans, except the reovirus. Topical application of sick fungi to treat fungal skin infections like athlete’s foot is also being investigated by researchers. Furthermore, the genome of the fungal flu virus can be a potential vaccine candidate. These viruses can also behave as Trojan horses, expressing foreign inserts upon request, thus opening new avenues in genetic engineering.

So, the next time you get sick, remember that you are not alone. Fungi get sick too. Getting sick is not always bad. Gather yourself courage by remembering what wonders fungi can do when sick. Get some inspiration from fungi, because getting sick is not always bad.