Humans have foraged mushrooms for thousands of years. While it’s true that some are poisonous, edible mushrooms are packed with health benefits. Some gourmet species, in particular, have health benefits that are studied used in drug discovery research and development. For example, Shiitake mushrooms (Lentinula edodes) contain a type of sugar molecule called lentinan that has been studied for antitumor properties since the 1960s.1 It’s also been used medicinally in Asia for thousands of years. Lions Mane (Hericium erinaceus) mushrooms have similarly been used traditionally for memory enhancement. In drug discovery, H.erinaceus has been studied for neurological disorders and dementia.2
Mycology is a broad field that goes beyond medical and pharmaceutical research. Mycologists also work in the food and beverage industry as well as agricultural and environmental. Mushroom farming or cultivation helps make varieties of gourmet mushrooms more widely available to consumers. Fungi farms often use state-of-the-art equipment to prevent contamination, which is a leading cause of cultivation failure. Laminar Flow Hoods ensure mushroom cultures on the work surface are protected from airborne contaminants like mold and other particulates to create a more controlled growth condition for better mushroom growth. Yet protection for mushroom cultures is not the only important safety consideration in mushroom farming.
Protecting Workers During Mycology Cultivation
Despite the many health benefits of mushrooms, certain species can release spores that endanger mushroom farmers. Anticancer properties aside, shiitake mushroom spore antigens can cause respiratory issues and airway diseases like hypersensitivity pneumonitis, often called mushroom worker’s lung, and bronchial asthma.3 Some other commonly cultivated mushroom types like white button (Agaricus bisporus) and oyster (Pleurotus species) mushrooms typically produce relatively low titers, antibodies in the blood that indicate an IgG response. There are, however, reported cases of mushroom worker’s lung outbreaks in Pleurotus ostreatus farms.4
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends using a Class II Biological Safety Cabinet (BSC) during mycology to protect workers.5 The Air Science® Purair® BIO integrated HEPA filtration system provides clean air to the work surface in a gentle vertical laminar flow pattern to prevent cross-contamination on the work surface. In addition, the exhaust HEPA filter in the Purair BIO traps biohazardous particles before the air is exhausted into the room to protect both the worker and the environment.
1 Meng Zhang, Yiran Zhang, Lijuan Zhang, Qingwu Tian, “Chapter Thirteen – Mushroom polysaccharide lentinan for treating different types of cancers: A review of 12 years clinical studies in China,” Progress in Molecular Biology and Translational Science. (Academic Press, Volume 163 2019), 297-328. https://doi.org/10.1016/bs.pmbts.2019.02.013.
2 Hirokazu Kawagishi, “Chapter 11 – Biologically Functional Compounds From Mushroom-Forming Fungi,” Natural Products and Drug Discovery. (Elsevier, 2018), 309-326. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-08-102081-4.00011-3.
3 “Basidiomycetes.” Meyler’s Side Effects of Drugs: The International Encyclopedia of Adverse Drug Reactions and Interactions. (Sixteenth Edition, Elsevier, 2016). Page 831. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-444-53717-1.00352-8.
4 S. Mori, K. Nakagawa-Yoshida, H. Tsuchihashi, Y. Koreeda, M. Kawabata, Y. Nishiura, M. Andot, M. Osame, “Mushroom worker’s lung resulting from indoor cultivation of Pleurotus ostreatus.” Occupational Medicine. (Vol. 48, No. 7, 1998), 465-468. https://watermark.silverchair.com/48-7-465.pdf
5 “Mycology Laboratory” CDC Guidelines for Safe Work Practices in Human and Animal Medical Diagnostic Laboratories. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/su6101a1.htm