A simple, portable test that can detect the deadliest of the mushroom poisons in minutes has been developed by Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists and their colleagues.
Eating toxic mushrooms causes more than 100 deaths a year, globally, and leaves thousands of people in need of urgent medical assistance. Amanitin is the class of mushroom toxins that cause the most serious issues.
The new test can identify the presence of as little as 10 parts per billion (equivalent to 10 cents out of $10 million) of amanitin in about 10 minutes from a rice grain size sample of a mushroom or in the urine of someone who has eaten a poisonous amanitin-containing mushroom. The test also works with dog urine, as dogs are known to indiscriminately eat mushrooms.
The test also could be a practical and definitive way for mushroom foragers to identify and avoid eating mushrooms with amanitin toxin if a commercial partner can be found to produce and market a test kit. This test is the most sensitive and reliable field method available to chemically identify amanitin-containing mushrooms. Although mushroom experts can identify deadly mushrooms just by looking at their appearance, experts cannot see the toxin chemicals that lurk inside.
Still this test only identifies the presence or absence of this specific class of toxin; it does not detect other compounds such as hallucinogens or toxins that cause other gastrointestinal or neurological symptoms. So, it cannot determine if a mushroom is edible.