(4 November 2007, Spain) The warning stated, "Ingestion of 20 grams is
potentially lethal," but a visitor to the Mycological Conference in the
village of Badajoz disagreed with the official assessment of Amanita
Phalloides, commonly known as the death cap mushroom.
45-year-old Jose Manuel knew mushrooms. He had spent the past few days
collecting and exhibiting mushrooms. He began arguing with conference
attendees, and to prove his point, he picked up the mushroom and began
chewing on half of it. Aghast onlookers begged him to spit it out, but he
calmly finished chewing, swallowed, and went on to consume the remaining
half of the poisonous basidiomycete fungus.
Jose Manuel, clearly under the influence of alcohol, insisted that the next
few hours would prove who was right and who was wrong. Indeed they did. An
ambulance was summoned and, despite heated opposition, a friend finally
convinced the amateur mycologist to get into the ambulance.
It was lucky that his friend was persuasive. Once in the hospital, Jose
Manuel started to show the typical signs of Death Cap poisoning: bloating,
jaundice, and continuous vomiting. He spent two days in the Intensive Care
Unit before being tranferred to a standard hospital bed.
The major of the town visited the foolhardy mycologist in the
hospital. Although the man was aware that his liver showed extremely high
levels of transaminase, an enzyme produced when the liver has to process
toxic substances, he told the mayor that he is still convinced that the
mushroom is harmless. Maybe a second try will make him a worthy Darwin
SIDEBAR: A. phalloides is the most lethal toadstool of all. Mushrooms
evolve toxins as a defense against predators. The Death Cap is the culprit
behind the majority of mushroom poisoning deaths; its victims may include
Roman Emperor Claudius and Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI. Many of its
biologically active agents have been isolated. The principal toxin is
alpha-amanitin, which damages the liver and kidneys, often fatally. No
antidote is known for the toxin, nor for the stupidity of this "mycological
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Submitted by: Jon Trifol, Alfonso Anderiz, Galderic Lastras
Reference: El Mundo Newspaper (Spain), http://www.20minutos.es/noticia/302416/0/ingiere/amanita/uci/