New Anti-viral Compounds from Mushrooms
by Paul Stamets
A new class of anti-viral compounds has been recently
discovered in mushrooms. Frank Piraino, Ph.D., and Curtis Brandt, Ph.D., at the
University of Wisconsin-Madison Medical School, found a new antiviral, RC-183,
that shows in vitro activity in
inhibiting the herpes simplex I and II viruses, as well as varicella zoster
virus, influenza A virus, and the respiratory syncytial virus.1 The
mushroom yielding this novel antiviral is Rozites caperata, the gypsy mushroom, a mycorrhizal species
associated with pines (Pinus
spp., Pinaceae) and Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii (Mirb.) Franco, Pinaceae) with a wide range that
includes the old growth coniferous forest in the Pacific Northwest, the East
and Northern North America. This mushroom thrives in both coniferous and in
hardwood forests and where huckleberry (Vaccinium ovalifolium Smith, Ericaceae) grows in the midwest.2
In a more recent article, Brandt and Piraino identified a
new class of anti-viral compounds from mushrooms.3 Antivirals from
other mushrooms have been identified previously from shiitake (lentinan and
KS-2 from Lentinula edodes (Berk.)
Singer, Polyporaceae),4-6 turkey tail (PSP and PSK from Trametes
versicolor (L.:Fr.) Pil‡t, Polyporaceae),6-8
reishi (ganaderiol-F, ganoderic acid-§, lucidumol from Ganoderma
lucidum (Fr.) Lloyd, Ganodermataceae),9
maitaki (3 branched §-1-6 glucans from Grifola frondosa (Dicks.:Fr.) S.F. Gray, Polyporaceae),10
and oyster mushroom (ubiquitin-like protein with anti-HIV activity from Pleurotus
ostreatus (Jaqu.:Fr.) Kumm, Polyporaceae).11
Other antivirals, not yet characterized, but having shown activity from hot
water extracts of the fruitbodies include the ice man or tinder fungus (Fomes
fomentarius (L.) Fr., Polyporaceae),12
chaga or cinder conk (Inonotus obliquus (Pers.) Pil‡t, Hymenochaetaceae)13 and zhu ling (Polyporus
umbellatus Fries, Polyporaceae).14
The predominant mushrooms showing promise for their
anti-viral activities are polypores -- the so-called woody conks that are now
believed, through ongoing DNA research, to be the ancestors of most, if not
all, gilled mushrooms.15 Interestingly, no poisonous polypores are
known, whereas there are more than 100 species of poisonous gilled mushrooms,
of which only perhaps 20 are deadly. Most of these anti-viral compounds from
mushrooms are water soluble, and relatively heat-stable. Furthermore, most of
the mushrooms mentioned and/or their mycelia can be cultured to commercially
significant levels. The anti-viral compounds are present both in the mycelium
and in the fruiting bodies.
The current literature points to fungi, particularly those
in the family Polyporaceae, as a rich frontier of new medicines. Many of these
species are long-term residents of old growth forests, playing an essential
role in nutrient recycling by decomposing aged trees. In a time when new
anti-viral medicines are critically needed, mushrooms stand out as an untapped
resource and deserve intensive studies.
Paul Stamets is the author of five books, including Growing Gourmet & Medicinal Mushrooms,
a mushrooms cultivation textbook used worldwide. On the editorial boards of the
International Journal of Medicinal
Mushrooms and Mushroom, the
Journal, he is an advisor to the Center for Integrative Medicine,
Tucson, Arizona. A pioneer in the cultivation of mushrooms, especially the
family Polyporaceae, he is an active adventurer into the old growth forests of
the Pacific Northwest, cloning and archiving mushroom strains from these ancient
woodlands. He owns Fungi Perfecti, website: <http://www.fungi.com>.
F, Brandt CR. Isolation and partial characterization of an antiviral, RC-183,
from the edible mushroom Rozites caperata. Antiviral Res 1999;43:67-8.
M. Mushrooms Demystified. Berkeley
(Calif.): Ten Speed Press; 1986.
CR, Piraino F. Mushroom Antivirals. Recent Research Developments in
Antimicrobial Agrents & Chemotherapy
H, Okubo A, Yamazaki S, Suzuki K, Mitsuya H, Toda S. Inhibition of the
infectivity and cytopathic effect of human immunodeficiency virus by water
soluble lignin in an extract of the culture medium of Lentinus edodes mycelia (LEM). Biochem Biophys Res Commun 1989;160:367-73.
S, Koga J, Whitley RJ, Chatterjee S. Antiviral effect of the extract of culture
medium of Lentinus edodes mycelia on the
replication of herpes simplex virus. Antiviral Res. April 20, 1993; 4:293-303.
TS. A biological response modifier, PSK, inhibits immunodeficiency virus
infection in vitro. Biochem Biophys Res Commun 1987;148:726-33.
RA, Ng TB. Polysaccharopeptide from Coriolus versicolor has potential for use against human immunodeficiency
virus type 1 infection. Life Sciences 1997; 60(25):PL383-7. [Editor's note: Trametes versicolor, syn. Coriolus versicolor]
M. Anti-HIV activity in vitro of MGN-3, an activated
arabinoxylane from rice bran. Biochem Biophys Res Commun 1998;243:25-9.
M. Inhibitory effects of components from Ganoderma lucidum on the growth of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
and the Protease Activity in Proceedings of the 1st International Symposium on Ganoderma
lucidum in Tokyo, Japan, Nov. 17-18, 1997,
H. Immunostimulant activity in-vivo and anti-HIV activity in-vitro of 3
branched §-1-6 glucans extracted from Maitake mushroom (Grifola frondosa) in Proceedings of the VIII International Conference
on AIDS and the III STD World Congress, 1992.
HX, Ng TB. Isolation of a novel ubiquitin-like protein from Pleurotus
ostreatus mushroom with anti-human
immunodeficiency virus, translation-inhibitory, and ribonuclease activities. Biochem
Biophysl Res Commun 2000;276:587-93.
M, Tan M, Fukushima A. Antiviral Substance with systemic effects produced by
Basidiomycetes such as Fomes fomentarius. Bioscience, Biotechnology, and
K. et al. Preliminary tests of antiviral activity of two Inonotus obliquus strains. Fitoterapia 1996;6(4):344-7.
SC. Clinical and experimental research on Polyporus umbellatus polysaccharide in the treatment of chronic viral
hepatitis. Chung Kuo Chung Hsi I Chieh Ho Tsa Chih Mar 1988;8(3):141-3,131.
DS, Pine EM, Langer E, Langer G, Donoghue MJ. Evolution of gilled mushrooms and
puffballs inferred from ribosomal DNA sequences. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 1997 Oct;94:12002-6.