A deadly fungus that can shrink a person’s brain and cause multiple organ failure has been discovered growing in Australia.
The bright red poison fire coral fungus was discovered growing on tree roots in Queensland rainforest near Cairns by Redlynch fungus photographer Ray Palmer.
Several people have died in Japan and Korea after mistaking the deadly fungus for edible varieties and brewing it in tea used for traditional medicine.
If left untreated, death can occur from multiple organ failure or brain nerve dysfunction.
The bright red hornlike fungus, regarded as one of the deadliest species in the world, is traditionally found in the mountains of Japan and Korea.
The poison fire coral produces at least eight toxic compounds and just touching the fungus can cause reddening or swelling of the skin.
“If eaten, it causes a horrifying array of symptoms: initially stomach pain, vomiting, diarrhoea, fever and numbness, followed over hours or days by delamination of skin on face, hands and feet, and shrinking of the brain, which, in turn, causes altered perception, motion difficulties and speech impediments,” Matt Barrett, a mycologist from James Cook University who specialises in fungi, said.