View Full Version : Toxic fungi

01-20-2007, 01:21 AM
Anybody know or any toxic fungi that could put a person in a coma with relatively little exposure through inhalation?

I need a red herring for my current WIP, and chemicals are out since the disease that triggers the storyline originates in a remote log cabin where an old geezer lives, and he's a natural-living type who wouldn't have toxic chemicals around.

01-20-2007, 01:33 AM
If your character boiled a pot of mushrooms he found in the woods and was hoping to eat, the fumes may cause coma, at least according to these two sites:

(Check under the section “GYROMITRIN / MONOMETHYLHYDRAZINE”)


If the old fella liked to eat mushrooms he found in the wild, you’d have more choices for which mushrooms might be the culprit – most of the toxic fungi out there have to be eaten for their effects to be felt.

Maybe someone else at AW can offer more suggestions.

01-20-2007, 01:57 AM
I was going to offer my boots for scientific analysis as a research aid, but they've recently been classified top secret by the Department of Homeland Security.

01-20-2007, 02:35 AM
I once met a woman in Fashion Design who did her thesis on natural dyes. She ended up in a coma for several weeks because of the mushrooms, fungi and lichens she picked for her research - she absorbed the poison thru her skin. It never occured to her that she should be wearing gloves when handling them.

01-20-2007, 12:00 PM
I need something that might be less noticeable and more likely to transfer from person to person. I might just invent something, since I don't know if there's anything real that fits the description. Maybe some sort of virulent Black Mold.

01-20-2007, 06:10 PM
How about Hanta (?) Virus? It is a potentially lethal disease that you get from inhaling Deer Mouse droppings and I believe I read something similar from bat droppings as well.

My area is the world's hot spot for Blastomycosis (aka Gilchrist's Disease) - a disease caused by inhaling spores from the soil (digging in it like gardeners do or contruction workers, dogs and cats get it as well). It has a myriad of symptoms from skin lesions, to blindness, to pnemonia. A young boy ended up in the hosptial with unusual symptoms and they found that it was on his brain. While you can't transfer this to another person, two people could conceivably get this if they were in the same area.

01-20-2007, 07:58 PM
I need something that might be less noticeable and more likely to transfer from person to person.

There's no fungus that will give you a communicable disease, but it may be possible if you go with making one up.

Hantavirus won't put you in a coma. It shuts down your respiratory system, which makes you need to be on 100% oxygen for a few days (which probably means sedation) but after those few days you either get better or ... you don't. It's a 50-50 chance. It's most common in New Mexico.

01-21-2007, 07:40 AM
I was thinking if the spores were on somebody's clothing, and somebody else spent a long time in their presence they could inhale the spores. I think making something up would be my best option at this point.

01-21-2007, 08:32 AM
I am an avid wild mushroom forager, and have studied lots of literature on mushrooms, as well as picking them for more than two decades. I have not heard of a single authenticated account of anyone getting poisoned through handling of mushrooms. The spores of certain kinds might be dangerous to breathe in large amounts, but only because, like any dust-sized particulate, they can cause lung congestion problems. Fungal spores are a common cause of hay-fever and other allergies. But nothing I can think of that would induce coma quickly.

The one kind of thing I know that could cause rather quick death, is inhalant cyanide. Serial hitman Richard Kuklinski, one of the bigger psychopaths this nation has ever produced, successfully perfected that method, among others.


01-22-2007, 12:26 AM
I'm an RN and I work in toxicology, among other things. Fungi are only toxic if ingested, and the resulting symptoms are due to the toxins. They would not produce anything that would be communicable to another person.

01-22-2007, 05:06 AM
Okay, I'll have to search for another culprit then.

Tsu Dho Nimh
01-22-2007, 06:33 AM
Do you really need a coma? Or just put him out of action for a while?

How long does he need to be "out"?

01-22-2007, 07:37 AM
The character goes into a coma for two weeks before dying. For a while, he is an isolated case, which leads doctors to believe it might be some sort of natural cause, or perhaps an external agent (chemicals, fungus, etc.). When another case comes up, the doctors still want to believe some sort of contaminant is responsible (the second patient also visited the site where the first man contracted it).

Only after about seven or eight days do cases occur that clearly indicate an infectious agent.

The story I need this information for is a dark fantasy medical thriller. There are a lot of fantasy stories out there wherein the characters go through some sort of portal to a fantasy world (like a rabbit hole or a wardrobe). In this story, the disease is the portal. As long as you stay in the fantasy world, you are in a coma in this one.

So yeah, the coma is necessary.

01-22-2007, 05:19 PM
I remember hearing about a case in Hawaii where some poor devil got a strange and extremely vicious fungal infection in his sinuses after doing work in his attic, it almost killed him and the doctors wound up having to remove his eyes and most of his bone structure around them as well as his upper pallet. Ultimately he survived, but obviously he is blind now and is going to have to go through a gazillion different re-constructive surgeries.
I know whatever that fungus was its not quite what you're looking for, but I thought I'd mention it as it may give you some ideas if you just want to invent something.

01-23-2007, 12:33 AM
Thanks,Tornadoboy. That's pretty wild. I just skipped the couple of scenes I was planning to devote to the fungus so I can write them later when I find something that fits.