SA's most lethal mushroom

Unless you are an expert on fungi, stay away from gathering mushrooms yourself, and beware those from dodgy sources.

Many species of poisonous mushrooms cause gastro-intestinal symptoms only, and recovery without treatment occurs within a few hours. But a small number can cause serious poisoning and sometimes even death.

Amanita phalloides

By far the biggest culprit is Amanita phalloides (Death Cap, Duiwelsbrood, Slangkos), which occurs throughout South Africa. Ingesting it can be fatal in about 50% of cases and accounts for 90% of all lethal mushroom poisonings.

Symptoms of poisoning with Amanita usually set in on average 10-14 hours after eating the mushroom, although the range can be from 6 to 48 hours after ingestion. There is typically a sudden onset of nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhoea, rapid heartbeat and hypoglycaemia. This is followed by a temporary recovery, with a relapse on day two to four, when liver and possibly kidney failure may occur.

Anyone experiencing such symptoms after eating mushrooms should seek immediate medical help. Consult a doctor even if the symptoms seem to have cleared up. In some cases of mushroom poisoning, serious complications such as renal failure may only occur days later.

If you have samples of the mushrooms available, keep these as they may help with identification and diagnosis.

Never gather mushrooms unless you are an expert at fungi identification, and don't eat or buy mushrooms unless you are certain they are from reputable source.

- Olivia Rose-Innes, EnviroHealth Editor, Health24, September 2012

Gerbus, M. 2003. Tygerberg Poison Information Centre.
University of Cape Town Digital Pathology Centre: Harmful substances: Poisonous Fungi. 2012.

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