Scientists Find Antidote for World’s Deadliest Mushroom

Potential Antidote for Death Cap Mushroom Poisoning Identified

In the quest to understand the lethality of the death cap mushroom, Amanita phalloides, responsible for over 90 percent of mushroom-related fatalities and countless illnesses worldwide, scientists have made a groundbreaking discovery.
There is no lack of information surrounding the world's deadliest mushroom toxicity. I remember the name of the fatal compound, α-amanitin distinctly from my college days in biochemistry. The name Amanita phalloides to this day makes me feel dread. It shuts down the ability of the cell to perform basic housekeeping operations like replicating DNA.  The compound is secreted by this well-studied fungus and is toxic to cells of the liver and kidneys of anyone unfortunate enough to ingest it.
Even food that has come into contact with these mushrooms can have spores cross-contaminate other food and has caused tragedies.
world's deadliest mushroom yellow small
Recent research suggests a potential antidote for poisoning caused by the notorious Amanita phalloides mushroom has been found. The evidence is strong that this is a silver bullet. A silver bullet in medicine is very rare and is a treatment that relieves the signs and symptoms of an illness but has nearly no side effects doing exactly what it should and nothing else.
This promising candidate, known as indocyanine green (ICG), has already received FDA approval for its use as a medical diagnostic imaging dye. It was first used as a photographic dye during WWII.

The discovery couldn't have come at a better time. 

California Is Currently Being Invaded by the World's Deadliest Mushroom

The world's deadliest mushroom, Amanita phalloides, is rapidly invading California. Researchers including some from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, claim the infestation is a mystery but it may have something to do with the spores' ability to reproduce asexually. They suspect the world's deadliest mushroom is cloning itself.

The mushroom has a broad, off-white cap when mature and can cause severe damage to the body's cells, particularly the liver and kidneys. The reproductive strategies of the death cap mushroom in California involve self-fertilization, which is rarely observed in mushrooms outside of labs.

The spread of A. phalloides in California is likely facilitated by its ability to sporulate without mating with another individual. The mechanisms driving the spread of the fungus are not fully understood, and further research is needed to uncover the reasons behind its rapid invasion but the potential antidote, and the solid research behind it, couldn't have come at a better time.

Understanding the Lethality

Death cap mushrooms, which resemble edible species and are often mistaken for them, pose a significant threat due to their potent toxins. Their taste does not exhibit signs of toxicity, and symptoms manifest slowly, making it easy to consume a lethal dose unknowingly. However, the toxins of the death cap mushroom silently attack the liver, leading to severe organ damage. Even with medical intervention, these toxins can result in liver failure and, in some cases, kidney failure, often proving fatal.
A research team led by chemists Guohui Wan and Qiaoping Wang from Sun Yat-sen University has made strides in the search for an antidote. Employing a multi-step approach, the team conducted genome-wide CRISPR screening on human cell lines, revealing the destructive impact of the toxin α-amanitin. Further investigation highlighted the role of N-glycan proteins and the enzyme STT3B in the toxicity of α-amanitin.

Indocyanine Green is Promising Against the World's Deadliest Mushroom:


indocyanin green a chemical structure of the death cap antidote world's deadliest mushroom
Photo: Wikimedia
The chemical structure of ICG is shown above. To find a suitable antidote, the researchers screened FDA-approved substances and identified indocyanine green as a potential inhibitor of the STT3B enzyme. Subsequent testing on human cell lines (HAP1 and Hep G2) and mouse liver organoids demonstrated increased resistance to α-amanitin-induced cell death after pre-treatment with indocyanine green. Live mice injected with the toxin also showed reduced organ damage and cell death when treated with indocyanine green according to Nature Communications.

Optimal Timing for Treating the World's Deadliest Mushroom

The researchers discovered that early intervention is crucial in treating death cap mushroom poisoning. Administering indocyanine green within four hours of poisoning significantly reduced organ damage and improved survivability in mice. However, treatment administered at intervals of 8 to 12 hours after poisoning lost its efficacy, indicating the need for prompt medical attention.
 world's deadliest mushroom stainless steel IV stand

Implications and Future Research:

While further research is required to determine the mechanism of action and safety of indocyanine green in humans, these preliminary findings offer hope for the development of an antidote in the near future. The researchers emphasize the effectiveness of coupling whole-genome functional genomic characterization with in silico drug prediction to target medically relevant processes.


In conclusion, scientists have made a significant breakthrough in understanding the toxicity of the death cap mushroom. The identification of indocyanine green as a potential antidote provides a ray of hope for preventing the toxic effects of Amanita phalloides poisoning. With additional research and refinement, this discovery could lead to effective treatment strategies, ensuring a safer environment for mushroom enthusiasts. To avoid any risks, it is always advisable to abstain from consuming mushrooms found in the forest unless they have been positively identified as safe.
This is a bit more science related than usual, but it's certainly good news and matters. For a post on the psychedelic boom (non-toxic mushrooms).
The findings were published in Nature Communications,

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