Death Caps and Muscle Wasters
Few mushroom species are regarded as poisonous, but there are cases of serious illness and lethal poisoning caused by nominally edible species. These include muscle wasting, and eventual heart failure, caused by the yellow knight mushroom. Regional differences in toxicity may explain these incidents. Wider concern is raised by experiments showing that rodents fed large doses of popular mushrooms show signs of tissue damage. It is possible that toxins may be common among mushrooms, but are usually produced in high concentrations only in the most notorious species. Poisoning by these species, including the death cap and a deadly webcap, are caused, usually, by errors in identification. Treatment options are very limited. The biological significance of mushroom toxins is unclear, but these compounds are probably active against predatory invertebrates. Mushroom toxicity has been utilized as a literary device by poets and as a hateful metaphor by fascists and Christian fundamentalists.
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