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Poisonous Fungi And Toxic Foods
=Fungi.=--Of the poisonous mushrooms, the Amanita phalloides and the
fly agaric, or Agaricus muscarius, are the most potent. The active
principle of the former is phallin, and of the latter muscarine. The
Amanita phalloides is distinguished from the common mushroom
(Agaricus campestris) by having permanent white gills and a hollow
stem. The Agaricus muscarius is bright red with yellow spots. Phallin
is a toxalbumin which destroys the red blood-corpuscles, causing the
serum to become red in colour and the urine blood-stained. Fibrin is
liberated, and thromboses occur, especially in the liver. The symptoms
may be mistaken for phosphorus-poisoning or acute yellow atrophy of the
liver. Muscarine affects the nervous system chiefly.
Edible fungi have an agreeable taste and smell, and are firm in
substance. Poisonous fungi have an offensive smell and bitter taste,
are often of a bright colour, and soon become pulpy.
Symptoms.--These may be of the narcotic or irritant types. Usually,
however, there is violent colic, with thirst, vomiting, and diarrhoea,
mental excitement, followed by delirium, convulsions, coma, slow pulse,
stertorous breathing, cyanosis, cold extremities, and dilated pupils.
Post-Mortem.--In phallin-poisoning the blood remains fluid; numerous
hæmorrhages are present, with fatty degeneration of the internal organs.
Treatment.--Use the stomach-tube to give a solution of permanganate of
potash, emetics, followed by a hypodermic injection of 1/50 grain of
atropine. Transfusion of saline fluid. A dose of castor-oil would be
=Foods.=--The kinds of food which most frequently produce symptoms of
poisoning are pork, veal, beef, meat-pies, potted and tinned meats,
sausages, and brawn. Sausage-poisoning is common in Germany. It is not
necessary that the food should be 'high' to give rise to poisoning. It
may arise from the use of the flesh of an animal suffering from some
disease, from inoculation with micro-organisms, or from the presence of
toxalbumoses or ptomaines. Many diseases, such as diarrhoea, enteric
fever, and cholera, and perhaps tuberculosis, may be caused by eating
infected food. Trichiniasis may also be mentioned. Tinned fish often
gives rise to symptoms of poisoning, and shell-fish are not uncommonly
contaminated with pathogenic micro-organisms. Mussel-poisoning was
formerly supposed to be due to the copper in them derived from ships'
bottoms, but it is more probably the result of the formation of a toxine
during life, and not after decomposition has set in. Milk, too, may give
rise to gastro-intestinal irritation from the occurrence in it of
chemical changes. There have been epidemics of poisoning from eating
cheese containing tyrotoxicon. Ergotism from eating bread made with
ergotized wheat is now rare, but pellagra from the consumption of
mouldy maize, and lathyrism, due to the admixture with flour of the
seeds of certain kinds of vetch, are still common in Southern Europe.
Symptoms.--The symptoms which result from the ingestion of poisonous
meat are often very severe. In some cases their appearance is delayed
from twenty-four to forty-eight hours. They may resemble those of an
infectious disease or those of acute enteritis. Usually there are
headache, anorexia, rigors, intestinal disturbance, pains in the back
and limbs, and delirium. Sometimes the symptoms resemble
atropine-poisoning, a condition due to ptomatropine.
Treatment.--Emetics, purgatives, stimulants, with hypodermic
injections of strychnine and atropine along with stimulants.
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