World’s Deadliest Fungus Discovered In Australia

Mushroom hunters are familiar with the “do not touch” warning when it comes to poisonous mushrooms. The reason for this is quite different when it comes to the world’s deadliest fungus. Unlike other species, this one will not just spoil the edible kind when stored together. This fungus will kill you by just touching it.

Many fungi are beneficial. They can provide nourishment, medicine, and also aid in the clean-up of the wide-spread ocean plastic pollution. Not so much the Poison Fire Coral fungus. It belongs to nature’s scary side you rarely get to see. Although its rarity might be a subject to change. It is suspected winds carried its spores to places far from its native places in Asia.

The Poison Fire Coral

Its scientific name is Podostroma cornu-damae. Mushroom hunters know the fungus better by the common name “Poison Fire Coral”. Accidental poisoning with the fungus has been on the rise. People often confuse it with the early stages of the medicinal fungi lingzhi (Ganoderma lucidum) and caterpillar fungus (Cordyceps). The symptoms are rather terrifying with a potentially fatal outcome, and there is no known cure.

The world’s deadliest fungus, usually only found in Asia, was recently discovered in Australia. Redlynch fungus photographer, Ray Palmer, stumbled across the deadly species while out exploring in the rainforest of Far North Queensland.

world's deadliest fungus
Image Ray Palmer/ James Cook University Australia

The mushroom is considered rare, but researchers suspect it already existed in the area. They believe the wind carried its spores to Australia thousands of years ago. This might be an indicator that the fungus could show up more and lose its rare status.

Dr Matt Barrett is a researcher at James Cook University. “Of the hundred or so toxic mushrooms that are known to researchers, this is the only one in which the toxins can be absorbed through the skin,” he warns. Adding, “If found, the fungus should not be touched, and definitely not eaten.”

The number of accidental poisoning has risen in Asia when people confused the world’s deadliest fungi with edible varieties. Traditionally Lingzhi (Ganoderma lucidum) and caterpillar fungus (Cordyceps) are used in teas for mediciunal purposes. To lower blood pressure, against allergies, and kidney disorders. Cordyceps is often used after kidney transplants as well as against liver problems.

world's deadliest fungus similarity to cordyceps

World’s deadliest fungi poisoning symptoms

The fungus contains at least eight toxic compounds that can be absorbed through the skin.

Dr Barrett says that, “If eaten, it causes a horrifying array of symptoms: initially stomach pain, vomiting, diarrhea, fever and numbness, followed over hours or days by delamination of skin on face, hands and feet.”

He adds it can cause “shrinking of the brain, which, in turn, causes altered perception, motion difficulties and speech impediments.”

Although no specific treatment has been found, studies show some treatment options are available. When given soon enough they can aid in the prevention of multiple organ failure, or brain nerve dysfunction.

It is important to know how to recognize which mushrooms and dangerous plants to stay away from. Keep your family, pets, and yourself safe out there.

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