Cases linked to wild mushroom poisoning in China declined slightly this past year but still pose a huge problem in the country, according to researchers.

In 2021, there were 327 investigations involving 923 patients and 20 deaths. Mushroom poisoning incidents and patients were more than 2019 but less than 2020 as deaths slightly decreased.

The number of patients in outbreaks ranged from one to 20 and six incidents involved more than 10 patients, according to a study published in the journal China CDC Weekly.

A total of 68 patients from 14 incidents ate poisonous mushrooms from a market or given to them by friends; 46 people from 10 incidents were poisoned after eating dried mushrooms .and 113 patients from 28 incidents ate mixed mushrooms.

Overall, 74 poisonous mushrooms species causing six different clinical syndromes were identified, 15 of which were newly recorded in China. In nine cases, it was previously unknown if the species was poisonous or not. This takes the number of mushroom species linked to intoxications past 150.

Further analysis showed that mushroom poisonings occurred every month, centered from May to November and reaching a peak in August. The first death was in early March. The top three months for deaths caused by poisonous mushrooms were September, July and November.

Types of mushrooms behind intoxications
The top three lethal mushroom species were Russula subnigricans, Galerina sulciceps, and Lepiota brunneoincarnata, which caused six, five, and three deaths, respectively. Chlorophyllum molybdites was behind the most poisonings incidents.

Eight species causing acute liver failure and three linked to acute renal failure were identified.

Mushroom poisoning resulting in acute liver failure caused by Amanita spp. dropped sharply. Researchers said this progress was mainly because of continuous science popularization and health education.

Thirty-nine species causing gastroenteritis were documented in 2021. The top three were Chlorophyllum molybdites, Russula japonica, and Entoloma omiense.

Researchers urged people to not collect or eat unfamiliar wild mushrooms.

“Mushroom poisoning is one of the most serious food safety issues in China. The low level of awareness of mushroom poisoning, in contrast to the high species diversity in China is a huge challenge for mushroom poisoning control and prevention,” they said.

“Promoting knowledge about poisonous mushrooms is essential and urgent to reduce mushroom poisonings. Timely and precise species identification after mushroom poisoning is important for appropriate diagnosis and treatment. Many deaths were linked to delayed hospitalization.”

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