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Actinomycetes are fungi-like bacteria. They are widespread in nature, and can be found in the soil, water and in compost. Actinomycetes form branching hyphae or mycelium (which is typical of fungi), and this is why they are often called fungi-like bacteria. Actinomycetes are chemoorganotrophic organisms that derive their carbon from organic molecules or substrates. They degrade chitin, agar cellulose, paraffin, rubber and keratin. Actinomycetes also produce antibiotics. Actinomycetes are Gram positive bacteria, and they are spore forming bacteria.

The bacteria genera in the group of organisms known as actinomycetes include: Nocardia, Actinomycetes, Corynebacteria, Streptomyces and Micromonospora. Not all members of actinomycetes are known to produce mycelium. Actinomycetes are filamentous bacteria because they form mycelium. Actinomycetes are aerobic bacteria that produce asexual spores. Actinomycetes have mycelia morphology (that makes them have similar resemblance to fungi); and majority of bacteria in this group of actinomycetes are known for their antibiotic production, especially those in the genus Streptomyces.


  • Actinomycetes are well recognized because they produce primary and secondary metabolites that are of economic significance.
  • Actinomycetes produce enzymes such as lipase, cellulases and amylase which are used in industrial fermentation processes.
  • They produce some valuable antibiotics including, amphotericin, neomycin, vancomycin, gentamicin, tetracycline, erythromycin, nystatin, novobiocin and chloramphenicol.
  • Actinomycetes are also used as plant growth promoting agents.
  • They produce biopesticide agents used to control pests in farmlands.
  • Actinomycetes also have application in bioremediation.
  • Actinomycetes produce protease enzyme which is used as anti-inflammation agents and also in cancer treatment.
  • Actinomycetes produce enzymes that have applicationin wine production.

Further reading

Bushell M.E (1998). Application   of   the   principles   of   industrial   microbiology   to   biotechnology (ed. Wiseman, A.) Chapman and Hall, New York.

Byong H. Lee (2015). Fundamentals of Food Biotechnology. Second edition. Wiley-Blackwell, New Jersey, United States.

Frazier W.C, Westhoff D.C and Vanitha N.M (2014). Food Microbiology. Fifth edition. McGraw-Hill Education (India) Private Limited, New Delhi, India.

Jay J.M (2005). Modern Food Microbiology. Fourth edition. Chapman and Hall Inc, New York, USA.

Bushell M.E (1998). Application   of   the   principles   of   industrial   microbiology   to   biotechnology (ed. Wiseman, A.) Chapman and Hall, New York.

Farida A.A (2012). Dairy Microbiology. First edition. Random Publications. New Delhi, India.

Nduka Okafor (2007). Modern industrial microbiology and biotechnology. First edition. Science Publishers, New Hampshire, USA.

Roberts D and Greenwood M (2003). Practical Food Microbiology. Third edition. Blackwell publishing Inc, USA.

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