Killer Poisonous Mushrooms May Have New Antidote

The death cap may have met its match
By Steve Huff,  Newser Staff
Posted May 16, 2023 5:54 PM CDT
Killer Poisonous Mushrooms May Have New Antidote
   (Getty Images / tomasztc)

Eating even a tiny slice of the death cap mushroom—AKA Amanita phalloides—can be fatal. It contains a group of toxins called amatoxins, which are extremely poisonous to humans. Amatoxins damage the liver and kidneys, and can lead to death even if treated, but that may soon change, reports Nature. New research first published in Nature Communications indicates that scientists trying to find an antidote to the mushroom found the route the toxins take on entering cells and discovered they could block that path with a chemical called indocyanine green.

Researchers in drug development at China's Sun Yat-sen University turned to gene-editing with CRISPR-Cas9 technology. Using human cells containing different mutations of various genes, they tested each cell till they found one that aided in surviving amataoxin exposure. They discovered that if a cell lacked the enzyme STT3B, the toxin couldn't get in. Then they hunted through more than 3,000 different chemical compounds until they discovered that indocyanine green, dye first developed for photography use in the 1950s, could block STT3B. Researchers found they were able to reduce mortality from death cap toxin in mice from 90% to 50% using the dye.

Testing may begin soon on human subjects, but there are complications, reports Nature—one of them being the fact that people exposed to death cap toxins often don't realize just how sick they are for a day or more. According to WebMD, it's easy to mistake death cap mushrooms—which are native to Europe but found all over the Americas—for more harmless varieties like the gypsy mushroom. Symptoms of death cap mushroom poisoning usually begin 6-12 hours after ingestion, and can include nausea, vomiting, jaundice, seizures, and coma. (More mushrooms stories.)

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