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What is Paecilomyces?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 23, 2024
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Paecilomyces is a fungal genus which can be found widely distributed around the world in dirt, food, and dead plant material. Many environments including homes naturally have some Paecilomyces species, and this fungus does not generally cause deleterious health effects, except in people with compromised immune systems. Superficially, Paecilomyces fungi can resemble Penicillium molds, but these two genera are quite different.

These fungi form filament-like structures, spreading to create a colony of powdery mold which can have a texture similar to that of suede or velvet in some species. The colony usually starts out creamy in color, and can develop red, yellow, brown, pink, and violet hues, among others. Unlike the physically similar Penicillium, Paecilomyces does not develop greenish colonies. Some species can develop a sweetish smell, especially in the case of mature colonies.

Fungi in this genus reproduce asexually by budding and producing spores which spread to the surrounding area. Several species are thermophilic, meaning that they thrive in high temperatures. This can be problematic for people trying to eliminate them, as heat is often used in the management of molds and fungi. However, many are vulnerable to fungicides, which can be used in situations where Paecilomyces species are causing a problem such as moldy walls.

These fungi are interesting to humans for a number of reasons. The first is that many prey on nematodes, which means that Paecilomyces can be used as a form of natural pest control. The fungi colonize the bodies of nematodes, eventually killing them with an overload of toxins. Some species also attack insects such as flies, gaining entrance to the body through one of the orifices such as the mouth.

In humans, Paecilomyces can sometimes cause mycoses, fungal infections of the body, usually in the case of people with a weakened immune system. These fungi have also been known to cause infections and ulcerations in the eye, especially in the case of contact lens wearers. A Paecilomyces infection can cause a variety of symptoms, including itching and unpleasant discharges. P. lilacinus is the species most likely to cause diseases in humans.

One species, P. hepiali, is sold in the form of Jinshuibao capsules in Traditional Chinese Medicine. The fungus is cultivated as an alternative to wild Cordyceps fungi. Another common species is P. variotii, commonly cultured in labs as an example of Paecilomyces fungus. In microscopic views, these fungi form colonies which are actually rather beautiful.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a InfoBloom researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments
By SkyWhisperer — On Aug 15, 2011

@David09 - I think that Jinshuibao capsules target kidney and lung problems and bronchitis as well. I haven’t tried them myself but I’ve seen them advertised in our local health food market.

By David09 — On Aug 14, 2011

I’ve tried herbal Chinese medicine when I’ve gotten a cold. To the best of my knowledge, I’ve never tried the Jinshuibao capsules that the article talks about, but the Chinese medicine I did take worked wonders for my cold.

I am a great believer in homeopathic and alternative medicine and would not mind trying the Jinshuibao capsules; however I would need more information about what those capsules are meant to do, since I don’t take any medicine, natural or otherwise, indiscriminately.

By nony — On Aug 13, 2011

As someone who has fought an annual battle with pests in my lawn, I find the potential use of Paecilomyces as a biological form of pest control to be quite promising.

I used to use chemical treatments, but I stopped after buying a dog and a cat because I didn’t want them to ingest the chemicals. Some chemical products insist that they are safe for pets but I’ve never felt comfortable.

A friend recommended that I look into organic products. I didn’t know what kinds were available but it appears from this article that at least one kind of product could use the Paecilomyces as a form of pest control.

Fungus that eat pests would be healthier for the environment overall I would think, and I don’t think it would harm animals. At least I don’t get that impression from the article. It’s definitely something worth pursuing.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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