More than 60 percent of all medicinal drugs are derived from the natural world.
Mycologist Paul Stamets is on a quest to prove that an endangered mushroom could cure smallpox, TB, and even bird flu. He believes that unlocking the secret may be as important to the future of human health as Alexander Fleming’s discovery of penicillium mold’s antibiotic properties more than 80 years ago.
That a homely, humble fungus could fight off virulent diseases like smallpox, e coli, and TB might seem odd, until one realizes that even though the animal kingdom branched off from the fungi kingdom around 650 million years ago, humans and fungi still have nearly half of their DNA in common and are susceptible to many of the same infections.
Stamets is on a quest to protect the genome of Agarikon, a rare mushroom found in old growth forests. He hopes to culture as many strains of the rare wood conk as possible to protect Agarikon from extinction.