Zombie Fungus spreads to Australia
One of the world’s deadliest fungi has been discovered in Australia’s far north for the first time – thousands of miles from its native habitat in the mountains of Japan and Korea.
The deadly Poison Fire Coral Fungus dubbed the Zombie Fungus or Zombie Mushroom for it’s distinctive method of killing, by shrinking the brain as though it is eating the brain, has been found in mainland Australia for the first time.
The Poison Fire Coral fungus was discovered in a suburb of Cairns by a local photographer and subsequently identified by scientists, James Cook University announced.
People are killed in Japan and Korea after mistaking the bright red fungi for edible mushrooms that are used in traditional medicine, and brewing it into a tea. Yet the Zombie Mushroom can also kill just by touch, the toxins are transferable by contact with human skin.
James Cook University mycologist Matt Barrett, who confirmed the identity of the toxic mushroom found in Australia, said the discovery extends its known distribution “considerably”.
Poison Fire Coral is the only known mushroom with toxins that can be absorbed through the skin, and causes a “horrifying” array of symptoms if eaten, including vomiting, diarrhoea, fever, numbness and shrinking of the brain.
If left untreated, it causes multiple organ failure and the brain to shrink leading to death.
“The fact that we can find such a distinctive and medically important fungus like Poison Fire Coral right in our backyard shows we have much to learn about fungi in northern Australia,” Barrett said.
Ray Palmer, a self-described “fungi fanatic” who found the specimen told AFP he had spent the past decade photographing various fungi in the rainforest surrounding his home city of Cairns.
“It didn’t surprise me because I have been finding quite a few things over the years,” he said.
“No one traipses around the rainforest up here photographing fungi. There are quite a few (more) things to be found and they probably will be in the coming years.”
Authorities insist that no attempts are made to touch the fungus if discovered, and people are urged to inform authorities of the discovery.
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