Death Cap mushroom

Two die in Australia from eating Death Cap mushrooms

Two people have died in Australia while a third remains in hospital awaiting a liver transplant after eating deadly poisonous Death Cap mushrooms. Four people were initially hospitalised after eating the fungi, unaware of its toxic properties, reportedly at a New Year’s Eve dinner party in Canberra.

One recovered and was released from a Canberra hospital but the other three were transferred to Sydney’s Royal Prince Alfred Hospital (RPA) for treatment.

The hospital said it would not be releasing any details about the patients or their treatments out of respect for their privacy, but state media reported that the victims had been awaiting liver transplants. All victims were believed to have belonged to the same family.

The mushrooms are usually found in Canberra in autumn, near oak trees, but recent summer rain has spurred the growth of the mushrooms.

Mycologist Dr Brett Summerell, director of science at the Royal Botanic Gardens, says death cap mushrooms, also known as Amanita phalloides, are possibly the most toxic in Australia.

He said death caps can be mistaken for straw mushrooms commonly used in Asian cuisine.

They often grow side-by-side with common edible mushrooms, but can be recognised by their white gills.

Summerell said people who eat the mushroom often experienced symptoms similar to food poisoning – including nausea, diarrhoea and vomiting – between six and 16 hours after ingesting them.

It is believed that the deadly poisonous mushrooms were mistaken for an edible fungi known as the Paddy Straw mushroom, which is commonly found in southeast Asia and considered a delicacy.

All parts of the Death Cap mushroom are poisonous and eating just one of the silky white-to-greenish-brown capped, white-gilled fungi can be fatal due to a dangerous compound called amatoxin, which can destroy enzymes involved in producing DNA, particularly in liver tissue.

Eating the mushrooms, an introduced species that grows in southeast Australia, causes vomiting within hours and is potentially fatal within days.

“So you will eventually go into a liver failure and that’s how these individuals would have succumbed to death,” director of the New South Wales Poisons Information Centre Dr Naren Gunja told the ABC.