Rare mushroom blamed for mystery deaths

By John Sexton
0 CommentsPrint E-mail China.org.cn, July 14, 2010
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The investigating team now had a prime suspect. But very little was known about Trogia. The mushrooms are so rare that many local villages do not even have a name for them. Mushroom buyers regard them as worthless so they never appear on the market – which helps explain why the deaths were confined to the remote areas where they were picked.

Eventually, Dr. Liu Jikai a researcher at the Kunming Institute of Botany isolated three potentially toxic amino acids in Trogia mushrooms. Dr. Liu was also able to reproduce sudden death syndrome in mice by feeding them Trogia.

Dr. Fontaine said that Trogia in the area also contained high concentrations of Barium, a calcium-like metal known to be a factor in triggering heart problems. Mushrooms are known to concentrate heavy metals present in soil. Autopsies showed that many of the victims had underlying heart defects, and Dr Fontaine said the remainder may have had heart problems undetectable by autopsy. He said the evidence collected so far points to death from heart failure triggered by the mushrooms in combination with underlying factors.

Notices put up in a number of villages in 2005 warning people not to eat Trogia resulted in a sharp drop in fatalities in subsequent years, providing further confirmation that the mushrooms triggered the deaths.

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