Mushrooms consumption can be harmful, Microbiologist warns

A Professor of Microbiology and Mycology with Federal University of Technology Akure, FUTA, Mrs Bamidele Akinyele has warned members of the public to desist from eating mushrooms indiscriminately, especially when in doubt of its true identity, as it could lead to death or serious injury. 

She gave the warning while delivering the University’s 119th Inaugural lecture titled, “Fungi and Fungal Products: Integral Part of Industrialization in a Developing Economy”. 

The Don said picking mushrooms from the wild for and medicinal value is an age long practice in Africa.

A specie of mushroom

She however pointed out that the major problem arising from eating mushrooms is the inability or difficulty of mushroom gatherers or mushroom scientists to identify the poisonous mushrooms, that contain toxins, which according to her, could be detrimental to human health.

Akinleye disclosed that the symptoms of mushrooms poisoning can vary from slight gastro-intestinal discomfort, vomiting and in acute cases death, adding that it may also vary from gastric upset to life threatening organ failure, resulting in fatality.

“Differentiating between poisonous and edible mushrooms, poisonous mushrooms turn green or purple, have a burning or stinging taste, odour, bitter taste, have no presence of worms and have scales on the cap. On the other hand, edible mushrooms do not stain, do not turn  green or purple, have a sweet taste, does not sting the tongue, have presence of worms and do not have scales on the cap.”

Akinyele said that presently, most of the fungi that cannot be properly and adequately identified in Nigeria, are sent to the UK or USA and therefore proposed the establishment of mycological culture collection centers in tertiary institutions, for proper and adequate documentation of various fungi in Nigeria.  

According to her, “this will ensure that the country has good database for empirical identification of fungi and other macro fungi, thus enabling the general populace to avoid eating poisonous mushrooms and the eventual death resulting from the consumption of unidentified/misidentified mushrooms.”

Highlighting the importance of fungi in economic development, the Don said fungi play significant roles in the health sector and industries where different fungi are being used in the of various metabolites and enzymes of industrial importance. 

She said “they can serve as sources of new drugs that may be used for the prevention and of several diseases in man, plants and animals most especially as nutraceuticals, anti-tumor and anticancer agents.” 

She said “ exploitation of fungi in the area of fermentation and production, can help in alleviating the problems of food scarcity and security and in the reduction of malnutrition thereby ensuring adequate food supply for improved food security and poverty reduction.”

The lecturer also stated that fungi have been identified to be effective and eco-friendly in the bio mediation of crude oil polluted soil particularly in the Niger Delta of Nigeria. 

Professor Akinyele said that “Government should make use of the various research findings by providing foods to industries to encourage production of these invaluable fungal products.” 

Presenting the lecturer, the Vice Chancellor, Professor Joseph Fuwape, described her as an erudite scholar who has contributed greatly to knowledge in her field.

He said Professor Akinyele stands out in her field of study, having churned out a number of graduates and postgraduate students and contributed significantly to the development of the University and human capital development.