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Pronunciation: fung'gus, fun'ji

Definition: A general term used to encompass the diverse morphologic forms of yeasts and molds. Originally classified as primitive plants without chlorophyll, the fungi are placed in the kingdom Fungi and some in the kingdom Protista, along with the algae (all but the blue-green algae), the protozoa, and the slime molds. Fungi share with bacteria the important ability to break down complex organic substances of almost every type (cellulose) and are essential to the recycling of carbon and other elements in the cycle of life. Fungi are important as foods and to the fermentation process in the development of substances of industrial and medical importance, including alcohol, the antibiotics, other drugs, and foods. Relatively few types of fungus are pathogenic for humans, whereas most plant diseases are caused by fungi.

[L. fungus, a mushroom]

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© Copyright 2018 Wolters Kluwer. All Rights Reserved. Review date: Sep 19, 2016.