Scientists find toxic fungus near Australia’s Great Barrier Reef

One of the world's deadliest fungi has been discovered in Australia's far north for the first time -- thousands of miles from its native habitat in the mountains of Japan and Korea. (AFP)
Updated 03 October 2019

Scientists find toxic fungus near Australia’s Great Barrier Reef

  • The Fire Coral fungus was found near Cairns in the northern state of Queensland
  • “If found, the fungus should not be touched, and definitely not eaten,” an expert said

MELBOURNE: A highly poisonous fungus, with toxins that can be absorbed through the skin, has been identified for the first time in the rain forest near the Great Barrier Reef, Australian scientists said on Thursday.
The Fire Coral fungus, which is better known in South Korea and Japan as being among the world’s most poisonous mushrooms, was found near Cairns in the northern state of Queensland, scientists from James Cook University said.
“If found, the fungus should not be touched, and definitely not eaten,” said Matt Barrett, an expert on fungi at the university’s Australian Tropical Herbarium.
“Of the hundred or so toxic mushrooms that are known to researchers, this is the only one in which the toxins can be absorbed through the skin.”
If eaten, the distinctive red fungus causes a horrifying array of symptoms: stomach pain, vomiting, diarrhea, fever and numbness are followed over hours or days by the skin peeling off the hands and feet, and the shrinking of the brain, he added.
It was most likely that the fungus occurred naturally in Cairns, although instances have also been reported from Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, Barrett said in a statement.
“The fact that we can find such a distinctive and medically important fungus like Poison Fire Coral right in our backyard shows we have much to learn about fungi in northern Australia,” he added.


British-Pakistani nurse, 36, dies of coronavirus

Updated 03 April 2020

British-Pakistani nurse, 36, dies of coronavirus

  • The mother of three, believed to have had no underlying health issues, first experienced symptoms on Mar. 13 and was later taken into intensive care
  • She showed slight signs of improvement last week but died in the early hours of Friday

LONDON: A 36-year-old NHS nurse died on Friday after being infected with coronavirus and fighting for her life in intensive care.
British-Pakistani Areema Nasreen had been placed on a ventilator at Walsall Manor Hospital in the West Midlands where she worked in the acute medical unit, the BBC reported.
The mother of three, believed to have had no underlying health issues, first experienced symptoms on Mar. 13 and was later taken into intensive care. She showed slight signs of improvement last week but died in the early hours of Friday.
Paying tribute to the nurse, Richard Beeken, chief executive of Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust, said Nasreen “was a professional, passionate nurse who started at the trust as a housekeeper in 2003 before working hard to gain her nursing qualification in January 2019.”
“Her dedication to her role and her popularity among her colleagues is obvious to see with the outpouring of grief and concern we are seeing around the organization and on social media. We will do everything that we can in the coming days and weeks to support those that need it,” he added.
Beekan said Nasreen always aimed to make a difference and that she “will be very sadly missed.”
Nasreen’s close friend Rubi Aktar, also a nurse, posted the news of her death on Facebook and described her as “the most loveliest, genuine person you could ever meet.” She added that her friend “above and beyond for everyone she met.”
“I’m so grateful that I had the honor to call her my best friend, she saw me at my best and my worst and accepted my every flaw. I am so broken that words can’t explain. I can’t believe I will not see your smile again,” Aktar wrote.
“You made me the nurse that I am today, with your support, motivation and inspiration I am the nurse that I am today and I hope I can do you proud Areema. I love you so much and I will never forget you. You had so much to live for, I am sorry you didn’t get to see your kids grow up and I’m sorry that you didn’t get to complete your career,” Aktar added.
Dr. Samara Afzal, a doctor who knew Nasreen, described her as a devoted nurse and “always full of life.”
“I’m lost for words..I beg you all to stay at home and keep everyone safe,” Afzal tweeted.

Meanwhile, England’s chief nurse Ruth May pleaded with Britons on Friday to stay at home over the weekend, invoking the names of Nasreen and another nurse, Aimee O’Rourke, who also died of coronavirus.   

"This weekend is going to be very warm and it will be very tempting to go out and enjoy those summer rays," May said.

"But please, I ask you to remember Aimee and Areema. Please stay at home for them," she said.

"They were one of us, they were one of my profession, of the NHS family," May said.

"They were clearly remarkable women, nurses and mothers," she added in a statement.