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Mother, Son Survive Brush With ‘Death Cap’ Mushrooms Thanks to Experimental New Drug

According to UMass Memorial Medical Center, 27-year-old Kai Chen and his 63-year-old mother Kam Look were poisoned from eating mushrooms, known as “death caps,” which they found growing near their home a few weeks ago in Amherst, Massachusetts. 

Both survived. A doctor recently informed the couple. Boston GlobeLegalon was a experimental drug that came from Philadelphia and made of an extract from the milk thistle plants. Kam required a liver transplant. The two also suffered from kidney damage.

“The treatment involved getting special permission from the FDA to provide an antidote that’s currently an investigational drug – and then to get that antidote emergently cured from Philadelphia” said Dr. Stephanie Carreiro, from the Division of Toxicology at UMass Memorial Medical Center in a press conference. “We had tried many methods to try to remove the toxin from their bodies. And ultimately, for Kam, it also required liver transplantation.”

Death caps are well-known among nerds. Amanita PhalloidesThe mushroom is a common one in California. According to Redwood Coast MushroomsChristian Schwarz and Noah Siegel have described the white mushrooms as “all white” and they are often grown on wood chips. However, you can find them more widely anywhere in North America. The death rate of those who consume death capvaries from 25 to 50 percent depending on their source.

People who consume death caps or a few other toxic mushrooms can become fatally ill. This is due to the fact that symptoms don’t appear immediately following consumption. Many times, the symptoms are not apparent until it’s too late. The liver damage is already underway. Kai Chen told CBS Boston, however that they knew something was wrong quickly.

“This should be a very big cautionary tale,” Kai Chen said in a press conference. “Be careful of what you find out there in the woods, especially mushrooms.”

Levon Durr is the owner of Fungaia Farms, a mushroom farming business in Eureka (CA). Chronic NewsThe fact that death caps were recorded as of this year in locations they had not previously been located could be a sign that climate change has enabled them to gain ground.

Amanita PhalloidesOfficially, the death cap was recorded in Humboldt County last January. It seems that they have been moving north for at least ten years. They have been recorded in the Bay Area for years now and then became more common in Mendocino County and now Humboldt,” Durr said. “The theory is the warming, drying climate has opened up new habitats for them to move north. So, it begs to hypothesize we will, unfortunately, see more poisonings as it expands its habitat into areas where people are less familiar with the death cap.”

We are approaching mushroom harvest season and despite my most dire warnings, there is no denying that people mistake every year one for the other. For decades, mushroom experts collectively have warned that correct identification of mushrooms is difficult. It requires more than simply comparing photos. For instance, one of the most commonly hunted psychedelic mushrooms known as “Wavy caps” (PsilocybecyanescensA deadly lookalike is called Galerina marginataThese are often hard to differentiate between, and can be difficult without training.

“When collecting wild mushrooms for food, one rule supersedes all others. If in doubt, just throw it out. If you are not sure that your mushroom is edible, don’t eat it.” – Excerpt from Redwood Coast Mushrooms.