Researchers reported on Tuesday that a commonly used medicinal dye lessens the toxic effects of death cap mushrooms in mice, raising hopes for the development of the first specific antidote for the most lethal mushroom in the world.
The US Food and Drug Administration (US FDA) has already approved the dye for various uses, but the China-led team said it has the potential to “save many lives” despite not having been tested as an antidote on people.
Death caps, also known as Amanita phalloides, are thought to be responsible for more than 90% of all poisoning deaths worldwide.
They frequently resemble other types of mushrooms that people enjoy picking in the wild, but consuming even half of one can result in fatal liver or kidney failure.
Death caps, which are originating from Europe, have spread around the world and, between 2010 and 2020, alone in China, they will be responsible for more than 38,000 illnesses and over 800 fatalities.
The major toxin produced by the mushrooms, alpha-amanitin, was the focus of a recent study that was published in the journal Nature Communications.
They made use of genome-wide CRISPR screening, a relatively recent method that has aided in understanding the function of particular genes in infections and poisonings.
The group had previously employed the technology to discover a potential cure for the box jellyfish, one of the most toxic creatures on the planet.
The protein STT3B was a major contributor to the toxic effects of death cap poisoning, according to the CRISPR screening.
The scientists looked through a database of medications that the US FDA had already approved and discovered one that could be able to block the protein.
It is an intravenously given fluorescent dye known as indocyanine green. It has been widely used for years for diagnostic imaging in the US, Europe, and other places, enabling doctors to assess liver and heart function.
Senior author of the study and researcher at China’s Sun Yat-sen University, Qiaoping Wang, told AFP that “the research team was understandably surprised upon discovering this unexpected connection.”
The antidote was initially tested on liver cells in a petri dish and subsequently on mice by the research team.
It “demonstrated significant potential in mitigating the toxic impact” of mushroom poisoning in both instances, according to Wang.
According to him, “this molecule holds immense potential for treating human mushroom poisoning cases and may represent the first-ever specific antidote with a targeted protein.”
If it works as well in people as it does in mice, it could save a lot of lives.
The group now plans to carry out human studies utilizing the color as a death cap countermeasure.
The mechanism of action of silibinin, an extract from milk thistle seeds, which has been utilized in the past to treat death cap poisoning, is still unknown.