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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 whi
h 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.