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Ergot fungus. Coloured scanning electron micrograph (SEM) of the fungus ergot (Claviceps purpurea). This fungus (orange) infects cereal crops and grasses, causing a reduced yield. During infection ergot induces the plants' cells to divide and enlarge, resulting in a dark mass, called the sclerotium, which allows the fungus to survive adverse conditions. Ingestion of ergot causes poisoning (ergotism) in animals and humans, which can be fatal. Symptoms can include vomiting, gangrene and hallucinations. A number of medical drugs are derived from ergot including ergotamine, to treat migraines, and ergometrine, which induces pregnancy, as well as LSD.
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