Mushrooms which can destroy the world

One of the earliest organic life forms are mushrooms. They appeared on Earth more than 185 million years ago, long before the advent of man. Nowadays, the role of fungi in nature and human life large: being present at all levels of the biosphere — both in water and on land: they decompose organic materials and contribute to the formation of fertile soil, are an essential component in the digestive system of many mammals. Sometimes, however, "relationship" animals and fungi are becoming an amazing and shocking...


In the spring of 2010 a small area of East Africa was gripped by the outbreak of a mysterious fatal disease sternocleidomastoid syndrome affecting mostly children. People against their will made distinctive sternocleidomastoid movement every 5-8 seconds. Furthermore, they have observed convulsions akin to epileptic seizures — the sick could not control their actions, tried to commit suicide. Some went into the forest and never came back, others completely cold Turkey, died from exhaustion. The atrophied brain of patients with alarming rapidity, there is strong hallucinations, and then death. There were more than 8,000 cases. And that, according to pessimistic forecasts of experts, only the beginning...

The first manifestation of Chiwetel-tion syndrome was recorded in remote mountainous areas of Tanzania in 1962. Since then, the disease spread slowly seizing new territory. In 1982, she appeared in Uganda, and in 2010 came to Sudan, where he acquired absolutely grotesque shape — more than 80 people from the province of Kordofan and then comes in fits of hysterical laughter, which alternated with prolonged syncope.


Studied the disease, scientists have suggested that the cause of the epidemics was the helminth Onchocerca volvulus, people living in, and the vector female black fly Simulium damnosum. Worms, floating flies, settle in the lymph nodes, where females produce many larvae. Latest penetrate under the epidermis, causing a person epileptic seizures, blindness and mental disorders. The hypothesis proved to be wrong: the black flies are common in all parts of the Black continent, a strange epidemic broke out only in some parts.

The doctors of the Sudan, not giving the epidemics of laughter" special values, prescribed to patients sedative-hypnotics, however, by February 2011 the situation escalated. The seizures were accompanied by outbursts of aggression and violence: a superstitious people were killing themselves and pursued the tribesmen, accusing them of witchcraft. The police even arrested several "witches" allegedly imposed a curse on the inhabitants. Arriving in the province, the medical team found out that patients have eaten wheat a special experimental grade. She was grown in a laboratory fields in Darfur, and knows how he got on the markets of the neighbouring province of Kordofan.

After research failed to find the cause of the mysterious disease is a parasitic fungus Claviceps purpurea is called ergot, or uterine horns, the storm all cereals. Mushrooms, being in the form of sclerotia (bodies consisting of woven threads of mycelium) in the soil, affect more than 170 cultural and wild grasses: stalks instead of grains formed sclerotia — black-purple cones that contain ergotamine and other alkaloids, the use of which causes involuntary muscle contractions and mental disorders.


For the first time on ergot learned in Ancient Greece: in the extant texts is mentioned the drink kykeon used in religious rituals (Eleusinian) and representing a distillation of grains of barley affected with ergot.

With the advent of Christianity in Europe, there was a rye — and there were outbreaks of diseases. First became epidemic-St. Anthony's fire", named for the monk, the founder of the order of St. Anthony the — institutions in charge of studying and combating disease. Disease (called modern medical ergotism) was accompanied by a burning sensation and high fever, nervous convulsions and epileptic seizures, gangrene, shrinkage and atrophy of the limbs, sometimes leading to the loss of the nose, fingers and toes, feet and to powerful hallucinations that only complicated the process of learning and treatment. Here is how the medieval author of the disease: the Great curse in the form of swollen bubbles destroyed the people, turning them into hideous rot". In the year 994, the bread made from infected grain, killed in France, 40 thousand people, and later, in 1129, died in 1500.

It is possible that hallucinogenic effects of ergot and its prevalence in the fifteenth century led to the emergence of the phenomenon of "witch hunt". According to the Chronicles of the Middle ages, sick people often stated that they had seen demons, feeling a "fire devouring from the inside", and accused neighbors of witchcraft sent against them. For example, poisoning from infected rye in Massachusetts in 1692 led to the infamous Salem process when accused of witchcraft and 20 people were killed and about 200 were in prison.

Only in 1676, six centuries after the emergence of "St. Anthony's fire", was discovered the true cause of the pandemic. Living in the Middle ages millers have been sold to the poor the flour milled from ergot tainted grain, delaying clean rye for wealthy clients. Once the cause has been established, control of the mills, it was possible to suppress the outbreaks. Gradually disappeared and the "witch hunt".

The last serious case of outbreaks of ergotism was the poisoning that occurred in the French town of Pont-Saint-Esprit in 1951: more than 1,000 people claimed that they are attacked by terrible monsters, and were falling from the sky fireballs.

All in all, according to conservative estimates, ergot was the cause of death of two million people (unless you don't count victims "of a witch hunt, which number about five million) — and today, this horrific figure continues to grow.


It happened that mushrooms have changed entire landscapes, both natural and artificially created. Eastern United States in the early XXI century completely lost their chestnut forests, destroyed mushrooms Criphonectria parasitica causing cancerous lesions of tree bark.

And just recently, German scientists have received irrefutable proof that zombies do exist: in Germany, was discovered parasitic fungi, which not only poisoned the body and intoxicating the mind of the owner, but... took possession of his brain! Parasites able to control the behavior of carpenter ants: clinging to the insect, they germinate inside and isolated alkaloid substances, under the action of which insects left the colony and went in search of the moist and warm places — a perfect environment for development of mushrooms. Reaching the goal, the insects die and become a natural fertilizer for parasites.

It may seem terrible, like mushrooms live in the woods and fields. You constantly feel angry and fagged out? It is not necessary to record yourself in the ranks of hypochondriacs, try to explore the darkest and most remote corners of the house — and you most likely will find there are Aspergillus, fungi. These microorganisms are spread in thin layers on walls and panels, houses and smelled that day by day loses life energy, not thinking about the true cause of your condition. Helps to destroy parasite anthracene oil and the solution of copper sulphate.

Despite the fact that the man is the "crown of creation" and "king of nature", he, like the Martian invaders from the famous wells novel "war of the worlds" at risk to fall victim to pathogens. And only a careful attitude to the nature will help us to protect themselves from the surprises and... themselves. published

Author: Sergey Alexeev



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