Brain-Shrinking Fungi Spreads Across Pacific

Poison fire coral isn’t actually a coral. It’s a fungus with a bright red color, which grows in clumps of vaguely coral-like shapes on the ground or in the bark of certain trees. The fruit bodies of the fungus are highly toxic, and have been responsible for several fatalities in Japan. The fungus contains several trichothecene mycotoxins. As the scientist in the TV Twitter interview below explains, it can prove deadly to humans.

It has always been considered native to parts of Asia, especially Korea and Japan.  Recently, however, it’s been identified as growing in Australia, which is a tremendous expansion of what had previously been considered its natural habitat.

There are more than 100 known varieties of poisonous mushroom but this is the only known variety whose toxins can be absorbed through the skin.

Ingesting even a small amount can cause vomiting, diarrhoea, fever, numbness, brain damage, organ failure, and other, equally unpleasant symptoms.

In some recorded cases of fatalities in Japan and South Korea, people had brewed tea from poison fire coral after confusing it with an edible fungus used in traditional medicine. Even touching the fungus can cause inflammation and dermatitis, researchers from James Cook University (JCU) said.