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Thu Oct 3, 2019, 01:47 AM

Deadly fungus native to Japan and Korea discovered in Australian rainforest

Poison fire coral, the only known fungus whose toxins are absorbed through the skin, found on the outskirts of Cairns

Ben Smee
Wed 2 Oct 2019 10.01 EDTLast modified on Wed 2 Oct 2019 17.48 EDT

One of the world’s deadliest species of fungus, previously thought native to Japan and Korea, has been found by a photographer on the outskirts of Cairns in northern Australia.

Scientists say the discovery of poison fire coral in a pocket of rainforest in Redlynch, a Cairns suburb, indicates the fungus likely occurs naturally in other parts of Australia and south-east Asia.

Poison fire coral, typically found on tree roots and in the soil, is the only known fungus whose toxins are absorbed through the skin. There are documented fatalities caused by the species in Japan and Korea.

Matt Barrett, a mycologist from James Cook University who specialises in fungi, said poison fire coral could cause “a horrifying array of symptoms” if eaten, including stomach pain, vomiting and fever. Eventually it can cause death by multiple organ failure or brain nerve dysfunction.


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