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United States Science News

The Death Cap Mushroom Is Spreading Across the US 274

Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Discovery News reports that the death cap mushroom is now an invasive species on every continent except Antarctica. It is spreading along the East and West Coasts of the U.S. and appears to be moving south into Mexico. 'When someone eats Amanita phalloides, she typically won't experience symptoms for at least six and sometimes as many as 24 hours,' says Cat Adams. 'Eventually she'll suffer from abdominal cramps, vomiting, and severely dehydrating diarrhea. This delay means her symptoms might not be associated with mushrooms, and she may be diagnosed with a more benign illness like stomach flu. To make matters worse, if the patient is somewhat hydrated, her symptoms may lessen and she will enter the so-called honeymoon phase.' Without proper, prompt treatment, the victim can experience rapid organ failure, coma, and death. But good news is on the way. S. Todd Mitchell of Dominican Hospital in Santa Cruz, California has treated more than 60 patients with a drug derived from milk thistle. The patients who have started the drug on time (within 96 hours of ingesting the mushroom) and who have still had kidney function intact have all survived. 'When administered intravenously, the compound sits on and blocks the receptors that bring amatoxin into the liver, thus corralling the amatoxins into the blood stream so the kidneys can expel them faster,' says Adams. Still, Mitchell cautions against the 'regular look"'of deadly mushrooms. 'They smell very good and when they're cooked, many patients have described them as the most delicious mushrooms they've ever eaten.'"
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The Death Cap Mushroom Is Spreading Across the US

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  • by wisebabo ( 638845 ) on Tuesday February 11, 2014 @07:50PM (#46223943) Journal

    So, is there such a think as Xtreme eating (like extreme sports?)

    If the people who ate them " described them as the most delicious mushrooms they've ever eaten.'" have all survived once they took the antidote, would other people consider eating this mushroom KNOWING that they were putting their life at risk (assuming they had access to the antidote)?

    I mean is this akin to eating the "Fugu" fish (which I have!) where, for some, part of the attraction of the food is the possibility that you might die?

    Are there other foods which are (potentially?) dangerous or deadly but are so tasty that it is worth the risk?

  • Re:Why the hype? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by magarity ( 164372 ) on Tuesday February 11, 2014 @07:52PM (#46223971)

    My in-laws from China are always wanting to pick mushrooms out of the yard to eat. It's amazing what living through the Cultural Revolution will do to make you save every penny and eat anything you can find not nailed down.

  • Re:Why the hype? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 11, 2014 @08:07PM (#46224103)

    I'm a Finn and most people I know pick mushrooms during the summer and fall to eat. It's very common around here. Granted, we only pick things that we know to be safe. I guess one reason is that it's very common to hike around the forests and pick berries and mushrooms here due to:

    I actually know of only one case in my (not immediate) family that has been poisoned by mushrooms. This was because of a French friend who was visiting in Finland and was living at one of my relatives. He cooked a dinner using mushrooms he had picked. The mushrooms he picked looked very much like a mushroom, which is a delicacy in France. Unfortunately, there is a mushroom in Finland that looks quite a bit like it, but is very toxic. However, you can eat it if you cook it three times in fresh water before consumption. Someone joked during the dinner "so how many times did you cook it?" and then everyone was off to the hospital...

    It's just that so many Americans are so detached from nature and are afraid of that "you're standing on my property!" and getting peppered by bullets, that they don't enjoy nature...

  • Re:Why the hype? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by DNS-and-BIND ( 461968 ) on Tuesday February 11, 2014 @10:14PM (#46225105) Homepage
    Here is a heartwarming story of a bunch of technology-hating hippies [] who went out in the forest to pick natural mushrooms and instead got a bonus helicopter ride to a modern hospital where the technology of liver transplants saved their worthless lives.
  • by marcopo ( 646180 ) on Tuesday February 11, 2014 @11:07PM (#46225359)
    Indicators and rules of thumb are a good start. However these are also very regional. There were cases of Russians who moved to north america and are mushrooms that would be safe back in Russia (based on guides such as A+B implies safe to eat).

    As noted, to be safe you really want a definitive identification. In extreme cases this requires a spore print and microscope. On the other side, in many cases you narrow it down to either a good mushroom, or one that gives some people indigestion but that's it, and then you may just take the risk and taste it.

    Foraging can be very enjoyable, and is not restricted to mushrooms, nor does it require living through a depression or the cultural revolution or any such crisis. However, it is very culture dependent, and many in north america there is a tendency to treat all unknown food as dangerous. A friend told me she was eating some wild berries in a local park with her son. A family came by, saw them eating and their boy said he wanted some too, to which the parents replied with a "No! these are poisonous."

  • by K10W ( 1705114 ) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @01:19AM (#46226019)
    which is my point exactly, unless you KNOW for certain what it is you don't eat it. Like I say I spent my youth cataloging stuff like that including spore prints and so on and used to carry my guides while hiking and then my adulthood photographing them. Even after surefire ID and so on I'd never considered eating stuff that has very similar looking but highly poisonous ones I could mistake them for. Just isn't worth the chance. I have eaten fly agaric but that was prepping properly and flavour isn't great but I didn't eat them for that.

    like you mention "reliable indicators" are not, not just because of similarities with other varieties but many indicators vary with age of the body (such a stem veil) and weathering and so on.
  • by Kotetsu ( 135021 ) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @01:56AM (#46226167) Homepage

    The main reason these mushrooms are eaten is that they are misidentified as some similar looking edible species. The most frequent victims for these mushrooms are immigrants that mistake them for an edible species that they would find back where they were originally from. In the US on the west coast, that most often means immigrants from eastern Asia mistaking them for Volvariella, volavacea, commonly sold in supermarkets in cans as "Paddy Straw Mushrooms".

    As far as being deadly, their lethality depends mostly on how much of them you eat. In a very general sense, if you eat some and don't seek medical treatment, your odds of dying are around 50%. With treatment (before the milk thistle extract), the survival rate was more like 90%.

    There are lots of other mushrooms that also produce the same toxins in potentially deadly quantities. The ones that produce the most poisonings are Galerinas (especially G. marginata), since they resemble some of the hallucinogenic species of Psilocybe and can grow in the same habitats, at the same time, and even side by side with them. Lepiotas and Conocybes (Pholiotinas) can also be deadly in the same way, but don't generally resemble other mushrooms that most would want to eat.

    There are lots of safe mushrooms and groups of mushrooms that are easy to identify accurately enough to eat without significant risk. Members of the genus Amanita (the ones these deadly ones belong to) don't fall into that category, unless you're a real expert. A lot of the "experts" that are referred to as such are people that can identify a few species (or maybe a few dozen species) in the woods - not somebody we should treat as a real expert. It's a bit like calling somebody who has done a "Hello World" program in a couple languages a programming expert.

    If you want to learn enough to forage for your own wild mushrooms, you should contact a local mycological society. You can meet people who can show you how to identify some of the easier, safer mushrooms in your area.

  • by Sique ( 173459 ) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @08:39AM (#46227517) Homepage
    Hm. But Death Cap is very common in Europe (where it is native), in Asia and in Northern Africa. Wherever you find oaks, you find the Death Cap. Often it gets to their new place with oaks that are grown in Europe (or a place where the Death Cap grows already) and then transported somewhere else to be planted in parks and gardens.

    And yes, in Europe, there are also mushrooms that look quite similar to the Death Cap, but are edible, like the Blusher or Saffron Ringless Amanita. So people coming from Europe to California to go mushroom hunting and are messing up a Death Cap with a Blusher would have made the same mistake in Europe.

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