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Death Angel Mushrooms

Medically Reviewed by Dany Paul Baby, MD on November 11, 2022

Mushrooms are much-loved for their flavor and versatility, but not all mushrooms are safe to eat. Death Angel mushrooms carry toxins and are dangerous. These mushrooms cause severe symptoms and death if consumed. If you go mushroom hunting yourself, it's crucial to recognize and avoid these deadly ones. Death Angel mushrooms are also known as Destroying Angel in Europe.

People frequently collect mushrooms from nearby forests and grasslands and consume them. Failure to identify dangerous species of mushrooms causes poisoning. In the U.S., mushroom consumption causes 5.8% of poisonings.

What Are Death Angel Mushrooms?

Death Angel mushrooms are of the genus Amanita. Common species are Amanita virosa, Amanita bisporigera, Amanita ocreata, Amanita verna, and Amanita smithiana. Amanita phalloides, the deadly Death Cap, is a related type of mushroom. Amanita mushrooms are responsible for most deaths caused by mushroom poisoning. Liver toxicity and failure cause most of these deaths.

Amanita mushrooms are white and beautiful. These mushrooms have a sweet smell and taste. Some species of Amanita mushrooms, such as Amanita lanei, are edible.

Death Angel Mushroom Identification

Knowing how to identify these poisonous mushrooms is crucial. Death Angel mushrooms have a white, smooth cap. The center may change color to tan with age. The stalk (stem) is also white and pearly and may have a swollen base. The ring (annulus), located at the top of the stalk, is white, large, and flaring. The stalk base has a white cup-like sheath, the volva. These mushrooms have a white spore print.

Are Death Angel Mushrooms Poisonous?

Amanita is a large family of mushrooms with over 900 species. Of them, nine species produce amatoxins that are harmful to humans. Other dangerous compounds in these mushrooms are phallotoxins and virotoxins, all classified as cyclopeptides. Death Angel, Amanita virosa, has two primary amatoxins, alpha-amanitin and beta-amanitin. It also contains two phallotoxins, phalloidin and phallacidin.

The toxins in Death Angel mushrooms block an enzyme, RNA polymerase II, crucial to protein synthesis. Amanita poisoning prevents the formation of enzymes, membrane receptors, structural proteins, peptide hormones, and other essential proteins.

Death Angel mushroom toxins can poison your baby if you eat these mushrooms while you're breastfeeding. The toxins can damage a baby's liver. If your doctor has diagnosed mushroom poisoning, you shouldn't breastfeed your baby.

Where Do Death Angel Mushrooms Grow?

Amanita virosa are native to Europe and do not occur in the U.S. Other species, like Amanita bisporigera, are native to North America and are equally poisonous. These mushrooms, often found in mixed oak-hardwood forests and other natural areas, may grow singly or in groups. 

Death Angel Mushroom Facts

Some facts about the Death Angel mushrooms:

Habitat: Prefer dappled sunlight. The shade of trees is best. Direct sunlight only for a few hours each day.

Poison Severity: High. One cap of the Death Angel is enough to kill an adult.

Life Cycle: Perennial. They appear in the spring and summer, die in the autumn and winter, and reappear next spring.

Growth Rate: Rapid.

Death Angel Poisoning Symptoms

Amanita mushrooms cause symptoms several hours after you eat them. The first symptoms are related to the stomach and intestines, like symptoms experienced with other inedible mushrooms. But Death Angel mushroom toxins also cause damage to vital organs, resulting in the following:

The first phase of poisoning consists of diarrhea and vomiting. This phase may end in a few hours, creating a false sense of security while the toxins damage the organs. The second phase may happen after a day or two, when you feel you have recovered from mushroom poisoning. This second phase is when toxin-mediated damage to vital organs occurs.

What to Do if You Have Death Angel Poisoning

These mushrooms cause severe poisoning. You must go to the hospital or emergency room at once if you suspect you have consumed them. Urgent treatment can prevent severe symptoms and organ damage. The treatment of poisoning with these mushrooms can be challenging. Your doctor will hospitalize you for intensive care if you've eaten a significant amount or are very sick and use the following treatment approaches:

Activated charcoal. A general-purpose antidote used for poisons taken by mouth, activated charcoal prevents the absorption of any poison in your stomach or intestines. Activated charcoal is a form of carbon that can absorb most toxins. Sometimes it is mixed with a laxative to hasten the poison's excretion.

Fluids and electrolytes. Loose stools and vomiting can leave you dehydrated. Severe dehydration can cause your blood pressure to fall, a dangerous condition. Your doctor will prescribe intravenous fluids with electrolytes to restore your hydration. 

Silibinin. The antidote of the first choice, your doctor may combine it with N-acetylcysteine (NAC). Silibinin is not always obtainable, and NAC may be given alone.

Coagulation factors. If you have bleeding, your doctor may prescribe coagulation factors to stop the bleeding.

Hemodialysis. A method of removing toxins and waste products from your blood if your kidneys are not working. 

Liver transplantation. If severely damaged, you may need a liver transplant to survive.

Safe Mushrooms That Look Like Death Angels

White button mushrooms (Agaricus campestris) are edible mushrooms that look very similar to Death Angels. The spores of these edible mushrooms are brown, unlike Death Angel spores, which are white. White button mushrooms are also known as field mushrooms and meadow mushrooms. They grow in most parts of the world, in open fields.

Death Angel mushrooms cause symptoms after several hours. Unlike most food poisoning that causes mainly intestinal symptoms, these mushrooms cause severe, irreversible damage to vital organs. You may need treatment in a hospital, including procedures like dialysis and liver transplantation.

Picking mushrooms in the wild is hazardous. Be aware of their danger if you gather mushrooms from forest areas. Only consume the mushrooms you are familiar with and discard unknown ones. Heating or cooking do not inactivate the toxins in Death Angel mushrooms.

In a year, almost 9,000 people suffer poisoning from mushrooms in the U.S. Some people have fatal poisoning. Deaths happen because of bleeding in the intestines and hepatic encephalopathy (liver failure causing brain dysfunction). Treatment is arduous and challenging, and it may not always be successful. The best way to survive Death Angel mushrooms is to learn to identify them and avoid eating them.

Show Sources

SOURCES:
Anon. Drugs and Lactation Database (LactMed). National Library of Medicine (US), 2021. 
Cornell University Mushroom Blog: "The destroying angel."
Deutsches Arzteblatt International: "Mushroom Poisoning."
Government UK: "Take care when picking mushrooms, poisons experts warn."
National Capital Poison Center: "Activated Charcoal."
North Carolina State University: "Amanita virosa."
Toxicology Reports: "Toxicological profile of Amanita virosa – A narrative review."

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