Mushroom poisonings continue to be reported in the D.C. area. After reports of two people becoming sick over the weekend after eating "Death Caps" and "Destroying Angels," two more 'shroom sickenings were announced Monday by Georgetown University Hospital.
In this instance, two women were hospitalized after eating what doctors believe to be "Avenging Angel" mushrooms. These mushrooms are extremely toxic to the liver and sometimes patients who eat them are only saved by having a liver transplant, according to the hospital.
Liver specialists at Georgetown University Hospital are treating a woman from Warrenton, Va., and her friend visiting from Thailand. Hospital officials said the women picked the poisonous mushrooms -- also known as Amanita bisporigera -- at a farm in Virginia and ate them Thursday evening. Both of them became sick the next day. One went to a hospital in Leesburg and was transferred to Georgetown on Sunday. The second woman was hospitalized at Georgetown on Sunday.
The women are receiving an investigative drug under study in the United States that treats certain kinds of mushroom poisonings. The drug, made from milk thistle, is called Silibinin.
Two other mushroom victims are being treated with the same drug at Georgetown University Hospital.
Frank Constantinopla, 49, of Springfield, Va., became sick after eating "Death Caps" in stir-fry. Constantinopla and his wife picked the mushrooms in their back yard. After eating them, Constantinopla became very sick, suffering from dysentery, dizziness, nausea and fatigue. His wife also fell ill, but her symptoms were much milder.
Constantinopla said that where he grew up the Philippines, it was common practice to go looking for mushrooms after rainy weather, and then put them into a meal.
"This was my first time that I saw mushrooms in my backyard," Constantinopla said, "so I said, 'Why am I so lucky, why other houses don't have mushrooms like me?' "
It turned out that he wasn't as lucky as he thought, and he ended up in the hospital.
On September 21, another area man was transported to Georgetown University Hospital for treatment, also suffering from mushroom poisoning. Walter Lantz, 82, a farmer in Frederick, had fallen ill after eating mushrooms on his property. Lantz was also given the experimental drug and has been recovering.
Physicians caution everyone to avoid eating backyard fungus. For those who like mushrooms, experts say, stick to the ones you buy in the store.
"Our area has seen a lot of rain and dampness in the past month, meaning there are a lot of mushrooms sprouting up in people's backyards," Dr. Jacqueline Laurin said. "We hope people will leave those alone."