What are moulds?

Moulds are a type of fungi (they are related to mushrooms and yeasts). They are made up of long filaments of fused cells called hyphae. These hyphae grow into their food source to form a network called a mycaelium (yeasts do not do this). The mycaelium secretes enzymes to digest the food source, and the digested food is reabsorbed into the mycaelium.

Some moulds can grow in conditions as cold as 2 degrees Celcius. The lowest and highest temperatures moulds can live in vary hugely depending on the exact species. Room temperature provides warmth and can allow moulds to grow at a faster rate. Moulds can reproduce by forming spores and releasing them into the atmosphere. Mould spores are found in household dust and in the air naturally, and are not normally a problem unless they are present in extremely high concentrations. Mould spores can can cause allergic symptoms and can even colonise body surfaces such as the tongue and the throat (this only really happens in people with a weak immune systems).

Mould spores are often released when there is a change in the environment. This can involve a change in humidity or temperature, and they are spread easily by winds and air currents. Such air currents can be easily created in a home by using the vacuum cleaner, making the bed, and opening and closing doors, and keeping windows open can also help spread spores around.

In nature, moulds are important for biodegradation of organic matter. Dead animals or fallen trees can be colonised by moulds and this can help put some nutrients back in the soil. Moulds are also used industrially, in food production and in some medicines. They are used in the production of cheese, Quorn, soy sauce, and penicillin (a type of antibiotic) and cyclosporine (used in patients who are having transplants).

Mould allergies Guide Index:

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