Eating wild mushrooms could be hazardous to health, or might be life risk, particularly during the rainy season, when mushroom are abundant, scientists have warned.
Warning from the Department of Medical Science came as samples collected by mushroom hunters and sent for toxicology test from various parts of the country showed up to 80% were health hazardous. The test came as there were rising number of people dying and getting sick after eating wild mushrooms. From the beginning of this year, the Bureau of Epidemiology reported 65 people were sick after eating wild mushrooms, 10 have died. Most cases were primarily from people in the Northeastern provinces. Scientists warn that physical inspection of mushrooms is insufficient as in many instances edible and poisonous mushrooms share similar characteristics and are hardly distinguished by eyes.
More heat from cooking does not destroy or dissipate the poisonous toxins in these mushrooms so extreme care must be exercised. The Department of Medical Sciences has applied DNA barcode technique that gives accurate detection of poisonous macro fungi in wild mushrooms. This method is very precise and is able to differentiate the different symptoms associated with poisonous substances. Dr Sitthiporn Panmen, a scientist at the Department of Medical Science, said the DNA barcode technique produces extremely precise results because DNAs are akin to fingerprints that are unique for each organism.
The technique needs only a small sample and is able to identify poisonous mushrooms irrespective of their stages of development or growth, he said. Following a two-year effort employing this technique a significant database of more than 200 poisonous mushrooms has been compiled. These are further separated into 9 categories according to symptoms, the largest of which are those that result in diarrhea. Mushroom samples of between 1 – 2 milligrams are taken and extracted. Their DNAs area then able to be extracted in a laboratory by highly specialized equipment. Computer programs will then produce a DNA sequence. DNA sequences for poisonous mushrooms have a unique characteristic with colored horizontal lines. A clear indicator whether a mushroom is fit for human consumption is the absence of red colored lines in the DNA sequence which means that it can be safely eaten.