Mushrooms That are Neither Magical, Nor Emo: I Sense a Conspiracy (Of Course)

Seems that some folks around the greater DC area, specifically, Northern Virginia, are getting sick. From the most evil of all fungi….mushrooms. (I kid, I kid. I love you mushrooms. Especially sautéed with balsamic vinegar and served on top of my steak. But, I’m not too familiar with other forms of fungi, so we’ll just go with “most evil,” mkay?)

There are a whole lot of "evil mushroom" images out there. Crazy.

No, people are getting mushroom poisoning because they are idiots. So far, at least four morons have gotten sick. From eating mushrooms they just found growing in yards and on the sides of roads and whatever.

Let me explain. Actually, let’s let an official news source explain:

“An additional two people are currently being treated at Georgetown University Hospital after eating poisonous mushrooms in Northern Virginia.  The two women, one from Warrenton, Virginia and one who was in town visiting from Thailand, bring the total number of mushroom poisoning cases treated at Georgetown Hospital in the past two weeks to four.”

Isn’t that nice? They all go to the same hospital. Wait… do they know to do that? There must be a billion hospitals in the area. And Georgetown isn’t even in Northern Virginia, it’s in DC proper. Wait a minute….I’m starting to get suspicious here. Let’s read on.

“The women picked the mushrooms at a farm near their Warrenton home and ate them on Thursday night.  The two women got sick the next day.”

At a farm? Seriously? A farm seems like a pretty safe place to acquire mushrooms, which are, last time I checked, a vegetable grown on farms.

“The first case happened when Springfield resident Frank Constantinopla and his  wife picked mushrooms from their backyard to cook in a stir fry.  A native of the Philippines, Constantinopla said it was a common practice back home.”

Hmmm, Constantinopla doesn’t sound like a Philipino name to me. Not that I would know. I don’t know anyone from the Philippines. Which is kinda sad. Perhaps I should find someone from the Philippines and befriend them. Maybe we can bond over a love of mushrooms. Or not.

(Also, I love that he was just whipping up a stir fry and thought: ‘hhmmm, we’re out of mushrooms. I know. I’ll go get some from outside!’)

Also, also: Does this mean that if I am in the Philippines and I just see a wild mushroom growing somewhere, I can safely just pluck it out of the ground and eat it? Good. To. Know.

“’We thought they were organic,’ said the 49-year-old at a press conference on Saturday.  ‘We thought it was a good mushroom because it sprung up in our backyard.’

They had picked a fungi called Amanita phalloides, known as ‘death cap’ mushrooms.  Within hours of eating the mushrooms, Constantinopla and his wife felt sick.  He developed worse symptoms.  Within three days, he was suffering from the early stages of liver failure.”

Holy emo band – did someone say “Death Cab” mushrooms! Oh. No. That would be “Death Cap” mushrooms.  

Also: Did this dude really hold a press conference? I’d be waaay too embarrassed about my bonehead move to hold a press conference on it. By that logic, I’d be holding a press conference about burning the roof of my mouth a week ago on scalding hot artichoke dip, which I was clearly warned by the server was very, very hot. And indeed. It was. The roof of my mouth is still tender. (End of press conference. I will take questions now.)

“Constantinopla was transferred from a Virginia hospital to the Georgetown Transplant Institute. Dr. Jacqueline Laurin, a Transplant Hepatologist, was aware of a drug that was still undergoing clinical trials and had not been approved by the FDA.  

“We contacted one of the study investigators and they were able to rapidly transport the drug to us. With the treatment, his liver functioning improved and he recovered.  He was sent home a few days later.” 

Hmmmm. Again, how convenient. Georgetown just happens to know about a drug that hasn’t been approved by the FDA that just happens to treat mushroom poisoning when some poor, unsuspecting and not-too-smart immigrant suddenly shows up with…..wait for it…..mushroom poisoning!

“Silibinin, also known as milk thistle, is approved in Europe for amatoxin poisoning, caused by the toxin in some species of mushrooms. Although it’s available in pill form as an herbal supplement in the U.S., the highly purified intravenous version was still being researched in Santa Cruz California, where there was a case of mushroom toxicity several years ago.”

Ok, Ok, I’m starting to connect the dots here. Does anyone know if Dr. Jacqueline Laurin recently moved here from Santa Cruz?   

“One week after Constantinopla’s case, a retired farmer from Frederick fell ill with mushroom toxicity. Georgetown University applied for special permission to use the drug.  

Now both men are recovering, and Georgetown University is monitoring their cases. All of the data collected will be included in the Santa Cruz clinical trials.”

AHA! So Santa Cruz still needs some data, probably to get that pesky FDA approval thing, and Georgetown now has FOUR victims, I mean, patients, in their care. And, hold on a minute, this guy was a retired farmer? You’d think a farmer might know something about things that grow out of the ground.

“While they now have access to quick treatment for mushroom poisoning, doctors at Georgetown say it shouldn’t come to that. People need to avoid eating mushrooms growing in the woods or back yards and buy their mushrooms from legitimate farms or grocery stores. 

“We are a very international community and practices from many parts of the world and many different cultures come into the Washington Metropolitan area,” said Dr. Thomas Fishbein, director of the Georgetown Transplant Institute. “And what grows here is not the same as what might grow in the areas where many of the patients who immigrate to this area come from.”

I don’t know. I’m still quite suspicious. I know the milk thistle lobby is incredibly powerful here in the United States (now that they’re running the show in Europe) and it’s clear that they are poisoning poor immigrants and retired farmers to collect data.

Or, people really just are that stupid. Like, eat-molten-lava-artichoke-dip stupid.

Actually, I do see how this could, possibly, happen.