Foraging and eating wild mushrooms can result in liver failure and even death because mistaking toxic mushrooms for edible varieties is common, says a study.
"Distinguishing safe from harmful mushrooms is a challenge even for mycologists," said Adina Weinerman, Division of General Internal Medicine, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, Toronto, Ontario, with co-authors.
The study focuses on a previously healthy 52-year-old immigrant woman of Asian descent who had foraged for wild mushrooms in a local park with her husband.
The woman presented with severe abdominal pain and gastrointestinal distress, and eventually required a liver transplant. She had brought samples of the mushrooms -- the toxic species Aminata Bisporigera -- she had eaten.
The results were outlined in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).
People with poisoning from toxic mushrooms go through three phases.
Gastrointestinal symptoms including pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrohea (within six-24 hours after ingestion), is followed by a false "recovery" period in which the patient appears to improve.
In the final phase, the patient's liver begins to fail, leading to multi-organ failure and potentially death.
Foraging is becoming increasingly popular, and people need to be aware of the associated risks of misidentifying mushrooms.
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Mushrooms of the Amanita genus, which includes over 600 types, cause most deaths from mushroom poisoning.