The killer fungi

My childhood had seen and read many fairytales. The glossy books with colourful pictures were my world. I liked so many of them and used to sleep with them and dream with them. Ome such dreamful world was full of mushrooms under which, I believed golden frogs, squirrels and rabbits lived. And why not? My mother used to call those mushrooms as the “umbrella for frogs” !! I don’t know whether she too tried me to push into the world of fairies.

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Don’t you too feel that here a golden frog and a squirrel can stay? How cute the home would be with them!
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The greens, the woods, the leaves and the nuts make this scene so lovely!

When I grew up I knew what mushrooms are, where they grow and how the word is used in English. “The schools are coming up like mushrooms” indicates there is a school in every nook and corner of a locality- right?

When I grew up more and got introduced to the world where mushrooms can be converted into delectable dishes. My mother learnt how to cook mushroom, I relished them in lunches and dinners. But little did I knew about the toxicity of those beautiful fungi!

Yeah, the darker side about which everybody must be cautious. I tried here to give you all a very little knowledge about the severe health hazards which mushrooms can do to us if their edibility is not known or ignored. Very recently we came across the news where Syrian refugee child died in Germany by consuming toxic mushrooms.

There are a large number of mushroom poisoning cases reported every year in areas with high mushroom consumption. Insufficient knowledge and misidentification of species are the leading causes of mushroom intoxication. Some species contain hazardous toxins in varying proportions that cause diverse signs and syndromes. Not only toxic mushrooms but also some edible mushrooms contain poisonous compounds and the severity of intoxication is dependent on the amount consumed. Accidental ingestion of mushrooms is difficult to avoid when there is a lack of knowledge and awareness about mushroom poisoning. Accurate recognition of mushrooms is a fundamental step in avoiding toxicity and enabling successful treatment through the rapid detection of intoxication symptoms. Cases of fatal mushroom poisoning have also been reported. So here are some toxins which are present in mushrooms and can cause death too. ( mentioning all not possible as the number of mushroom species is huge).

  • Ataxia, motor depression, euphoria, dizziness, gastrointestinal disturbances, drowsiness, muscle twitches, and changes in insight, feelings, and mood are common symptoms associated with amatoxin poisoning
  • Ingestion of Gyromitra, and even the inhalation of vapours produced during the cooking of this mushroom can cause toxicity. Diarrhea, vomiting, fatigue, vertigo, ataxia, tremor, and nystagmus are the most common symptoms of this intoxication.  Carcinogenesis is another adverse effect of gyromitrin.
  • Muscarine is abundant in C. rivulosaC. dealbataC. cerussiteC. phyllophila, and C. candicans. It is also present in Amanita muscaria and the Inocybe genus. Symptoms of muscarinic syndrome include increased pulse rate, headache, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and rapid breathing.  Bradycardia and even collapse may occur in severe cases of intoxication with this poison
  • Poisonous mushrooms also contain muscimol. It causes paralysis 20~22 min after ingestion by acting on the central nervous system. Muscimol can serve as an insecticide and can kill flies.
  • The toxicity symptoms of psilocybin develop 30 min after ingestion of these mushrooms. Frequently reported symptoms of this intoxication include hypertension, tachycardia, visual problems, nausea, anxiety, asthenia, vertigo, mydriasis, motor incoordination, and disorientation. Psilocybin toxicity-associated problems resolve completely 4~12 hr after ingestion.Coma, hyperthermia, and seizures may occur in children
  • After ingestion, choline in poisonous mushrooms is converted into acetylcholine in the body. Symptoms of choline toxicity include increased blood pressure, decreased heart rate, pupil contraction, increased blood flow, and increased digestive system activity.
  • The cyclopeptide Orellanine is present in C. orellanus and C. speciosissimus and hence these two mushrooms are nephrotoxic. Orellanine toxicity symptoms may arise 2~20 days after ingestion. Nausea, abdominal pain, and vomiting are symptoms in the early stages of toxicity. Chills, intense thirst, oliguria or polyuria, and probably anuria follow these.

I am enlightened today, hope you too.

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