Beware wild mushrooms, may be toxic: doctors


TORONTO – Doctors are warning people who forage for wild mushrooms to educate themselves about edible species after a woman who ingested a highly poisonous variety needed a life-saving liver transplant.

In a case report published in Monday’s edition of the Canadian Medical Association Journal, doctors say the 52-year-old immigrant of Asian descent visited a Toronto hospital emergency department last summer with severe abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting.

The woman had eaten a variety of wild mushrooms found in a local park with her husband, who had foraging experience in his native country. She had brought samples of the fungus with her to the hospital, suspecting they might have been the cause of her symptoms.

Analysis showed the mushrooms were a toxic species known as Amanita bisporigera. The Amanita genus includes more than 600 species, which are the cause of most deaths due to mushroom poisoning.

“Distinguishing safe from harmful mushrooms is a challenge even for mycologists,” writes Dr. Adina Weinerman, an internal medicine specialist at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre who helped treat the woman and co-authored the report.

People poisoned by toxic mushrooms go through a number of phases. Six to 24 hours after ingesting the fungi, the person develops intestinal pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. These symptoms are typically followed by a “false recovery” period, in which the patient appears to improve, and may lead to premature discharge from hospital, the authors say.

In the final phase, which occurs about 48 hours after eating the noxious plant, the patient’s liver begins to fail, which can result in death.

There is no antidote for mushroom toxicity. While charcoal can absorb the toxin, that treatment would need to be administered soon after ingestion.

“Patients should be counselled that poisonous and edible mushrooms can be very similar in appearance and that wild mushrooms of uncertain identity should not be eaten,” the authors write.

“This information is especially important for immigrants who might mistake local poisonous mushrooms for familiar edible species from their native land.”

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  1. Watch your dogs, too. Last fall, my then 8yo Golden decided to sample the mushrooms in our new back yard. He’d never shown any interest in mushrooms before. After developing severe vomiting and diarrhea and salivating like a garden hose, he ended up on IVs at the weekend emergency vet. There were a few different kinds of mushrooms involved so I don’t know which was/were the toxic one(s). Thankfully the mushrooms weren’t hepatotoxic and he’s okay, but it was a $950 snack.

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