Fungus extraordinaire. This genus, named after an aspergillum because of its shape, is part and parcel of our everyday lives:
The citric acid we get in our cola drinks comes from the large-scale vat fermentation of Aspergillus niger. Beano is also made from Aspergillus niger. Traditional soy sauce is fermented with Aspergillus oryzae, so is miso. The carcinogenic aflatoxins found in peanut butter comes from A. flavus, A. parasiticus, and related species. Many species are also direct human pathogens, and the spectrum of nasty diseases ranging from allergies to deadly infections goes by the term Aspergillosis.

You can find a variety of Aspergillus species growing just about anywhere in warm climates: soil, manure, cotton, grain, damp carpets, compost piles, ear infections, fruits, vegetables, hay, house dust, leather and dairy products. Always popular with gene splicers, you can find helpful instructions for growing your own as well as genetic maps on the Web. Research is underway to develop a species that can remove toxic and radioactive materials from the environment.

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