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Ricin

Castor beans

The protein ricin (pronounced rye-sin) is a poison manufactured from the castor bean (Ricinus communis). Its name comes from the seed's resemblance to the tick. Ricin can be extracted from castor beans and is known to have an average lethal dose in humans of 0.2 milligrams (1/5,000th of a gram), though some sources give higher figures [1]. It is considered to be twice as deadly as cobra venom.

Toxicity and manufacture

Ricin is poisonous if inhaled, injected, or ingested, acting as a toxin by the inhibition of protein synthesis. There is no known antidote; only symptomatic and supportive treatment is available. Long term organ damage is likely in survivors. In small doses, such as the typical dose contained in a measure of castor oil, ricin causes digestive tract cramps. Ingested in larger doses, ricin causes severe diarrhea and victims can die of shock. (See abrin).

Although the castor bean plant has long been noted for its toxicity, ricin was first isolated and named in 1888 by Hermann Stillmark. Modern feed-making techniques break down the ricin in castor beans by heating at 140 degrees Celsius for 20 minutes, although some studies suggest that residual toxic effects may linger. Although one seed contains enough ricin to kill an adult human, they may pass harmlessly through the digestive system if swallowed whole. [2]. Typically 2.5–20 raw seeds can kill an adult human; 4 a rabbit, 5 a sheep, 6 an ox, 6 a horse, 7 a pig, 11 a dog, but 80 for cocks and ducks.[3]

Ricin consists of two distinct protein chains (almost 30kDa each) that are linked to each other by disulfide bond:

  • Ricin A is toxic to the cell by interfering with Ribosomes, responsible for protein synthesis
  • Ricin B is important in assisting ricin A's entry into a cell by binding with a cell surface component.

Many plants such as barley have the A chain but not the B chain. Since people do not get sick from eating large amounts of such products, ricin A is of extremely low toxicity if and only if the B chain is not present.

Ricin is easily purified from castor-oil manufacturing waste. The seed-pulp left over from pressing for castor oil contains on average about 5% by weight of ricin. Since 0.2 mg of purified Ricin constitutes a fatal dose, this is a considerable amount of ricin.

As little as one castor bean, about 0.5 grams, may be fatal in a child.

In the United states, a person caught manufacturing or possessing ricin may be sentenced up to 30 years in prison.

Potential medicinal use

Ricin may have therapeutic use in the treatment of cancer. Ricin could be linked to a monoclonal antibody to target malignant cells recognized by the antibody. Genetic modification of ricin is believed to be possible to lessen its toxicity to humans, but not to the cancer cells. A promising approach is also to use the non-toxic B subunit as a vehicle for delivering antigens into cells thus greatly increasing their immunogenicity. Use of ricin as an adjuvant has potential implications for developing mucosal vaccines

Use as a chemical/biological warfare agent

The United States investigated ricin for its military potential during the First World War. At that time it was being considered for use either as a toxic dust or coated bullets and shrapnel. The dust cloud concept could not be adequately developed, and researchers believed the coated bullet/shrapnel concept was unethical. The War ended before it was weaponized.

During the Second World War the United States and Canada undertook studying ricin in cluster bombs. Though there were plans for mass production and several field trials with different bomblet concepts, the end conclusion was that it was no more economical than using phosgene. This conclusion was based on comparison of the final weapons rather than ricin's toxicity (LD50 <30 mg.min.m–3). Ricin was given the military symbol W.

The best-known documented use of ricin as an agent of biological warfare was by the Soviet Union's KGB during the Cold War. In 1978, the Bulgarian dissident Georgi Markov was assassinated by Bulgarian secret police who surreptitiously 'shot' him on a London street with a modified umbrella using compressed gas to fire a tiny pellet contaminated with ricin into his leg. He died in hospital a few days later; the pellet was discovered by chance during an autopsy and the poison linked back to the KGB. Earlier, Soviet dissident Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn also suffered (but survived) ricin-like symptoms after a 1971 encounter with KGB agents (D.M. Thomas, Alexander Solzhenitsyn: A Century in His Life, 368-378).

Despite ricin's extreme toxicity and utility as an agent of chemical/biological warfare, it is extremely difficult to limit the production of the toxin. Under both the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention and the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention, ricin is listed as a schedule 1 controlled substance. Despite this, more than 1 million metric tonnes of castor beans are processed each year, and approximately 5% of the total is rendered into a waste containing high concentrations of ricin toxin [4].

In August of 2002, US officials asserted that the Islamic militant group Ansar al-Islam tested ricin, along with other chemical and biological agents, in northern Iraq.

To put ricin used as weapon into perspective, it is worth noting that as a biological weapon or chemical weapon, ricin may be considered as not very powerful, if only in comparison with other poisons such as botulinum or anthrax. Hence, a military willing to use biological weapons and having advanced resources would rather use either of the latter instead. Ricin is easy to produce, but is not as practical nor likely to cause as high casualities as other agents. Ricin denatures (ie, the protein changes structure and becomes less dangerous) much more readily than anthrax spores, which may remain lethal for decades. (Jan van Aken, an expert on biological weapons explained in an interview with the German magazine Der Spiegel that he judges it rather reassuring that Al Qaeda experimented with ricin as it suggests their inability to produce botulin or anthrax.)

Pure ricin could be dispersed through the air, however it would tend to be oxidized and rendered harmless by ozone, nitrogen oxides, and other pollutants in a matter of hours. Since it acts as an enzyme, catalyzing destruction of ribosomes, even a single oxidation is likely to render the ricin molecule harmless. Presumably it could be sealed inside some sort of dust particle that would dissolve in water, but this would be difficult.

The major reason it is dangerous is that there is no specific antidote, and that it is very easy to obtain (the castor bean plant is a common ornamental, and can be grown at home without any special care). Ricin is actually several orders of magnitude less toxic than botulinum or tetanus toxins, but those are more difficult to obtain.

Ricin patent

"Preparation of Toxic Ricin",
patent application.

The process for creating ricin is well-known, in part because a patent was granted for it in 1952. The inventors named in US Patent 3,060,165 (granted October 23, 1962) "Preparation of Toxic Ricin", assigned to the U.S. Secretary of the Army, are Harry L. Craig, O.H. Alderks, Alsoph H. Corwin, Sally H. Dieke, and Charlotte Karel.

The patent was removed from the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) database sometime in 2004, but is still available online through international patent databases.

Ricin extraction process

The extraction of ricin from castor beans is very similar to the prepartion of soy protein isolates. Modern extraction plants might use membrane filtration to make highly purified ricin isolates

Ricin is initially extracted from defatted castor beans by aquous extraction at pH 3.8 to yield a leachate containing solubilized ricin. The leachate is filtered to remove insoluble matter and the crude ricin then precipitated by the addition of a 12% solution of sodium sulfate with a pH of 7.0-8.0. After precipitation, the crude ricin cake is washed with a 16.7% solution of sodium sulfate to remove extranious nitrogenous substances. The precipitated ricin may be reextracted once to further purify it.

The final ricin precipitate is dried and then purified by floatation in carbon tetrachloride. An aerosol powder may be prepared by spray drying or air grinding the purified ricin using cold air.

Ricin-related arrests in Britain in 2003

It was widely reported in the media that traces of ricin were detected by British police in a flat in Wood Green, North London after a raid on a suspected ring of terrorists on 5 January 2003. Media reports stated that a group was suspected of intending to use the poison in an attack on the London Underground. However at the trial of Kamel Bourgass in 2005 it became apparent that within a few days of the raid the leader of the Biological Weapon Identification Group at the Porton Down Defence Science and Technology Laboratory had concluded that ricin was not present at Wood Green [5] [6]. Some acetone, 22 castor beans, and poor recipes for ricin and other poisons copied from the Internet were found. It appears that an individual conducting amateur research on poisons was found in this raid.

A little later several arrests were made in France and a bottle of something that tested positive for ricin was found. Further analysis identified the material as ground wheat germ. The analytic confusion was caused by the similarity of many plant proteins to one of the ricin components, which suggests that higher quality (better specificity and sensitivity) analytic tests for ricin are needed.

Six more suspects were arrested in Bournemouth in England in connection with the investigation into the alleged ricin incident in London. They were not convicted of any poisons related crime.

Three more suspects were arrested in Manchester in England in connection with the investigation of the alleged ricin found in London, following a raid carried out pursuant to an investigation into immigration issues. A Special Branch policeman, DC Stephen Oake, was fatally stabbed during the arrests, and three other officers were also injured, one seriously.

On January 20, 2003 Finsbury Park mosque was raided by police, apparently as part of the investigation into the alleged discovery of ricin in Wood Green. A number of men who were apparently living at the mosque were arrested.

On February 5, 2003, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell presented those arrested as the "UK Poison Cell" of a global terrorist network in making the case for military intervention in Iraq to the UN Security Council [7].

In April 2005 31-year-old Kamel Bourgass was jailed for 17 years after being convicted of conspiracy to commit a public nuisance "by the use of poisons and explosives to cause disruption, fear or injury". He was also jailed for life following a conviction for murdering the Special Branch policeman who went to arrest him. All others accused in connection with the Wood Green flat were acquitted on all counts.

Ricin in Washington, D.C.

Ricin was detected in the mail at the White House in Washington, D.C. in November of 2003. The letter containing it was intercepted at a mail handling facility off the grounds of the White House, and it never reached its intended destination. The letter contained a fine powdery substance that later tested positive for ricin. Investigators said it was low potency and was not considered a health risk. This information was not made public until February 3, 2004, when preliminary tests showed the presence of ricin in an office mailroom of U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's office. There were no signs that anyone who was near the contaminated area developed any medical problems. Several Senate office buildings were closed as a precaution.

Ricin in popular culture

Ricin was the poison used in the Agatha Christie Tommy and Tuppence whodunnit The House of Lurking Death in a 1929 collection of short stories called Partners in Crime.

Ricin was used as the poison of choice of the murderer in the 1962 comedy film Kill or Cure.

Ricin was mentioned in the "call me the prankster" comic at toothpaste for dinner

The Penn and Teller book How To Play With Your Food (ISBN 0679743111) includes a "gimmicks envelope" of small objects related to the tricks inside the book. One of these is a sticker reading "With all-natural ricin!". The book explains that ricin is a poison.


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The book explains that ricin is a poison. As the King of Spain was imprisoned and Joseph I was an usurper, that May 5 sparked independence movements thoughout Spain's colonies in Latin America. One of these is a sticker reading "With all-natural ricin!". Napoleon Bonaparte's brother was then crowned King Joseph I. The Penn and Teller book How To Play With Your Food (ISBN 0679743111) includes a "gimmicks envelope" of small objects related to the tricks inside the book. May 5, 1808 also marks the date on which Spain's Bourbon dynasty, specifically King Charles IV, was dethroned by the Napoleonic army. Ricin was mentioned in the "call me the prankster" comic at toothpaste for dinner. The largest Cinco De Mayo celebration in the United States takes place in Denver's Civic Center area with an annual attendance of 450,000-500,000 [1].

Ricin was used as the poison of choice of the murderer in the 1962 comedy film Kill or Cure. Although honored today as a national holiday in Mexico, Cinco de Mayo is more of a regional celebration, particularly in the state of Puebla where the famous battle took place. Ricin was the poison used in the Agatha Christie Tommy and Tuppence whodunnit The House of Lurking Death in a 1929 collection of short stories called Partners in Crime. Patrick's Day, with holiday-themed parties marked by the consumption of Mexican food, tequila and Mexican beer. Several Senate office buildings were closed as a precaution. And today non-Mexican Americans also participate in the celebrations, much in the same manner that the non-Irish observe St. There were no signs that anyone who was near the contaminated area developed any medical problems. For many Mexican-American communities Cinco de Mayo is an important way to proudly honor Mexican heritage, overshadowing Mexico's Independence Day in popularity.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's office. Over the years this holiday has grown outside university circles and its activist roots, and has been absorbed by the mainstream culture in the Southwest United States and beyond. This information was not made public until February 3, 2004, when preliminary tests showed the presence of ricin in an office mailroom of U.S. Incidently, Cinco de Mayo's greatest hero, General Zaragoza, was born in Texas. Investigators said it was low potency and was not considered a health risk. Hence, Cinco de Mayo became the de facto alternative for these hispanic commemorations, and still is today. The letter contained a fine powdery substance that later tested positive for ricin. However the simple truth is that this day was just too early in the school year for college students to organize effective rallies and celebrations.

The letter containing it was intercepted at a mail handling facility off the grounds of the White House, and it never reached its intended destination. El Dieciséis de Septiembre would have seemed like the obvious choice. in November of 2003. Inspired by activists nationwide, members of the MEChA student organization in California sought to find a day of celebration that highlighted their largely Mexican ancestry. Ricin was detected in the mail at the White House in Washington, D.C. The rise in Cinco de Mayo's popularity in the United States can be attributed to the Chicano student movement of the late 1960s. All others accused in connection with the Wood Green flat were acquitted on all counts. Also on 5 May 1901, Ignacio Bravo telegraphed the news of the end of the Caste War of Yucatan with the Mexican victory against the self-proclaimed state of Chan Santa Cruz.

He was also jailed for life following a conviction for murdering the Special Branch policeman who went to arrest him. That distinction is reserved for el Dieciséis de septiembre ("September 16"), which is celebrated at all offices belonging to the executive branch of government, from the president down to the municipal governments, on the night of September 15 through to the early morning hours of September 16 with a re-enactment of the Grito de Dolores; the formal call for an end to Spanish rule in 1810. In April 2005 31-year-old Kamel Bourgass was jailed for 17 years after being convicted of conspiracy to commit a public nuisance "by the use of poisons and explosives to cause disruption, fear or injury". Contrary to popular belief in the United States, Cinco de Mayo does not mark Mexican independence day. Secretary of State Colin Powell presented those arrested as the "UK Poison Cell" of a global terrorist network in making the case for military intervention in Iraq to the UN Security Council [7]. The Mexican people then reelected Juárez as president. On February 5, 2003, U.S. military began supplying Mexicans with weapons and ammunition, and by 1867, the rebels finally defeated the French and deposed their puppet Emperor.

A number of men who were apparently living at the mosque were arrested. Once the American Civil War was over, the U.S. On January 20, 2003 Finsbury Park mosque was raided by police, apparently as part of the investigation into the alleged discovery of ricin in Wood Green. Mexican rebels opposed to his rule resisted, seeking the aid of the United States. A Special Branch policeman, DC Stephen Oake, was fatally stabbed during the arrests, and three other officers were also injured, one seriously. Maximilian's rule was short-lived. Three more suspects were arrested in Manchester in England in connection with the investigation of the alleged ricin found in London, following a raid carried out pursuant to an investigation into immigration issues. Archduke Maximillian became Emperor of Mexico.

They were not convicted of any poisons related crime. By 1864, they succeeded in defeating the Mexican army and occupying Mexico City. Six more suspects were arrested in Bournemouth in England in connection with the investigation into the alleged ricin incident in London. The French Emperor, upon learning of the failed invasion, immediately dispatched another force, this time numbering 30,000 soldiers. The analytic confusion was caused by the similarity of many plant proteins to one of the ricin components, which suggests that higher quality (better specificity and sensitivity) analytic tests for ricin are needed. Zaragoza won the battle but lost the war. Further analysis identified the material as ground wheat germ. The invasion was stopped and crushed.

A little later several arrests were made in France and a bottle of something that tested positive for ricin was found. With the dragoons removed from the main attack, the Mexicans routed the remaining French soldiers with a combination of their tenacity, inhospitable terrain, and a stampede of cattle set off by local peasants. It appears that an individual conducting amateur research on poisons was found in this raid. However, Zaragoza's small and nimble cavalry units were able to prevent French dragoons from taking the field and overwhelming the Mexican infantry. Some acetone, 22 castor beans, and poor recipes for ricin and other poisons copied from the Internet were found. The battle between the French and Mexican armies occurred on May 5 when Zaragoza's ill-equipped militia of 4,500 men encountered the better armed French force. However at the trial of Kamel Bourgass in 2005 it became apparent that within a few days of the raid the leader of the Biological Weapon Identification Group at the Porton Down Defence Science and Technology Laboratory had concluded that ricin was not present at Wood Green [5] [6]. Along their march, the French already encountered stiff resistance before Zaragoza struck out to intercept the invaders.

Media reports stated that a group was suspected of intending to use the poison in an attack on the London Underground. Confident of a quick victory, 6,500 French soldiers marched on Mexico City to seize the capital before the Mexicans could muster a viable defense. It was widely reported in the media that traces of ricin were detected by British police in a flat in Wood Green, North London after a raid on a suspected ring of terrorists on 5 January 2003. The Confederacy even considered taking advantage of Mexico's problems to annex large portions of northern territory into the Confederacy, an idea that was very popular with high ranking military officials, but was ultimately rejected by Jefferson Davis. An aerosol powder may be prepared by spray drying or air grinding the purified ricin using cold air. This was possible because federal authority was difficult to enforce in the northern part of the country, and the lawless region fell largely under the direct rule of governors who were also regional strongmen. The final ricin precipitate is dried and then purified by floatation in carbon tetrachloride. Although they failed to enter into negotiations with the Mexican federal government, they did obtain the support of several northern Mexican state and territorial governors, including permission to use their territories as logistical bases for the Confederacy.

The precipitated ricin may be reextracted once to further purify it. The Confederacy had sent numerous diplomatic missions south of the border, seeking international recognition. After precipitation, the crude ricin cake is washed with a 16.7% solution of sodium sulfate to remove extranious nitrogenous substances. Apart from Lincoln's stated disdain for the French intervention, there were other more pragmatic reasons to aid Mexico, stemming directly from the Civil War itself. The leachate is filtered to remove insoluble matter and the crude ricin then precipitated by the addition of a 12% solution of sodium sulfate with a pH of 7.0-8.0. Although Abraham Lincoln roundly condemned Napoleon's imperialist ambitions in a neighboring country, he was unable to provide ground forces to assist Mexico as the United States was embroiled in the American Civil War at the time; however, he did provide other notable military assistance, including two elements believed to have been key to eventual Mexican victory:. Ricin is initially extracted from defatted castor beans by aquous extraction at pH 3.8 to yield a leachate containing solubilized ricin. Emperor Napoleon III wanted to secure French dominance in the former Spanish colony, including installing one of his relatives, Archduke Maximilian of Austria, as ruler of Mexico.

Modern extraction plants might use membrane filtration to make highly purified ricin isolates. The democratically elected government of President Benito Juárez made agreements with the British and the Spanish, who promptly recalled their armies, but the French stayed, thus beginning the period of the French intervention in Mexico. The extraction of ricin from castor beans is very similar to the prepartion of soy protein isolates. Under the pretext of forcing payment for Mexico's outstanding and crippling debt, Britain, Spain and France sent troops to Mexico. The patent was removed from the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) database sometime in 2004, but is still available online through international patent databases. It commemorates the victory of Mexican forces led by General Ignacio Zaragoza over the French expeditionary forces in the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. Dieke, and Charlotte Karel. El Cinco de Mayo ("The Fifth of May" in Spanish) is a national celebration in Mexico.

Corwin, Sally H. This also helped ensure the defeat of numerically superior French forces during the guerrilla campaigns that eventually drove Napoleon's forces out. Alderks, Alsoph H. Second, Lincoln also supplied vital logistics, guns, and artillery, including many arms that were at the time the world's most technologically advanced, such as repeating rifles. Craig, O.H. First, the President sent a large contingent of US warships to blockade the port of Veracruz, thus preventing thousands of French reinforcements from consolidating the victories they had already achieved, and preventing more cities from capitulating as had the capital, in what might have been the single most important strategic factor in ensuring ultimate Mexican victory. Secretary of the Army, are Harry L.

The inventors named in US Patent 3,060,165 (granted October 23, 1962) "Preparation of Toxic Ricin", assigned to the U.S. The process for creating ricin is well-known, in part because a patent was granted for it in 1952. Ricin is actually several orders of magnitude less toxic than botulinum or tetanus toxins, but those are more difficult to obtain. The major reason it is dangerous is that there is no specific antidote, and that it is very easy to obtain (the castor bean plant is a common ornamental, and can be grown at home without any special care).

Presumably it could be sealed inside some sort of dust particle that would dissolve in water, but this would be difficult. Since it acts as an enzyme, catalyzing destruction of ribosomes, even a single oxidation is likely to render the ricin molecule harmless. Pure ricin could be dispersed through the air, however it would tend to be oxidized and rendered harmless by ozone, nitrogen oxides, and other pollutants in a matter of hours. (Jan van Aken, an expert on biological weapons explained in an interview with the German magazine Der Spiegel that he judges it rather reassuring that Al Qaeda experimented with ricin as it suggests their inability to produce botulin or anthrax.).

Ricin denatures (ie, the protein changes structure and becomes less dangerous) much more readily than anthrax spores, which may remain lethal for decades. Ricin is easy to produce, but is not as practical nor likely to cause as high casualities as other agents. Hence, a military willing to use biological weapons and having advanced resources would rather use either of the latter instead. To put ricin used as weapon into perspective, it is worth noting that as a biological weapon or chemical weapon, ricin may be considered as not very powerful, if only in comparison with other poisons such as botulinum or anthrax.

In August of 2002, US officials asserted that the Islamic militant group Ansar al-Islam tested ricin, along with other chemical and biological agents, in northern Iraq. Despite this, more than 1 million metric tonnes of castor beans are processed each year, and approximately 5% of the total is rendered into a waste containing high concentrations of ricin toxin [4]. Under both the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention and the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention, ricin is listed as a schedule 1 controlled substance. Despite ricin's extreme toxicity and utility as an agent of chemical/biological warfare, it is extremely difficult to limit the production of the toxin.

Thomas, Alexander Solzhenitsyn: A Century in His Life, 368-378). Earlier, Soviet dissident Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn also suffered (but survived) ricin-like symptoms after a 1971 encounter with KGB agents (D.M. He died in hospital a few days later; the pellet was discovered by chance during an autopsy and the poison linked back to the KGB. In 1978, the Bulgarian dissident Georgi Markov was assassinated by Bulgarian secret police who surreptitiously 'shot' him on a London street with a modified umbrella using compressed gas to fire a tiny pellet contaminated with ricin into his leg.

The best-known documented use of ricin as an agent of biological warfare was by the Soviet Union's KGB during the Cold War. Ricin was given the military symbol W. This conclusion was based on comparison of the final weapons rather than ricin's toxicity (LD50 <30 mg.min.m–3). Though there were plans for mass production and several field trials with different bomblet concepts, the end conclusion was that it was no more economical than using phosgene.

During the Second World War the United States and Canada undertook studying ricin in cluster bombs. The War ended before it was weaponized. The dust cloud concept could not be adequately developed, and researchers believed the coated bullet/shrapnel concept was unethical. At that time it was being considered for use either as a toxic dust or coated bullets and shrapnel.

The United States investigated ricin for its military potential during the First World War. Use of ricin as an adjuvant has potential implications for developing mucosal vaccines. A promising approach is also to use the non-toxic B subunit as a vehicle for delivering antigens into cells thus greatly increasing their immunogenicity. Genetic modification of ricin is believed to be possible to lessen its toxicity to humans, but not to the cancer cells.

Ricin could be linked to a monoclonal antibody to target malignant cells recognized by the antibody. Ricin may have therapeutic use in the treatment of cancer. In the United states, a person caught manufacturing or possessing ricin may be sentenced up to 30 years in prison. As little as one castor bean, about 0.5 grams, may be fatal in a child.

Since 0.2 mg of purified Ricin constitutes a fatal dose, this is a considerable amount of ricin. The seed-pulp left over from pressing for castor oil contains on average about 5% by weight of ricin. Ricin is easily purified from castor-oil manufacturing waste. Since people do not get sick from eating large amounts of such products, ricin A is of extremely low toxicity if and only if the B chain is not present..

Many plants such as barley have the A chain but not the B chain. Ricin consists of two distinct protein chains (almost 30kDa each) that are linked to each other by disulfide bond:. Typically 2.5–20 raw seeds can kill an adult human; 4 a rabbit, 5 a sheep, 6 an ox, 6 a horse, 7 a pig, 11 a dog, but 80 for cocks and ducks.[3]. [2].

Although one seed contains enough ricin to kill an adult human, they may pass harmlessly through the digestive system if swallowed whole. Modern feed-making techniques break down the ricin in castor beans by heating at 140 degrees Celsius for 20 minutes, although some studies suggest that residual toxic effects may linger. Although the castor bean plant has long been noted for its toxicity, ricin was first isolated and named in 1888 by Hermann Stillmark. (See abrin).

Ingested in larger doses, ricin causes severe diarrhea and victims can die of shock. In small doses, such as the typical dose contained in a measure of castor oil, ricin causes digestive tract cramps. Long term organ damage is likely in survivors. There is no known antidote; only symptomatic and supportive treatment is available.

Ricin is poisonous if inhaled, injected, or ingested, acting as a toxin by the inhibition of protein synthesis. . It is considered to be twice as deadly as cobra venom. Ricin can be extracted from castor beans and is known to have an average lethal dose in humans of 0.2 milligrams (1/5,000th of a gram), though some sources give higher figures [1].

Its name comes from the seed's resemblance to the tick. The protein ricin (pronounced rye-sin) is a poison manufactured from the castor bean (Ricinus communis). Ricin B is important in assisting ricin A's entry into a cell by binding with a cell surface component. Ricin A is toxic to the cell by interfering with Ribosomes, responsible for protein synthesis.

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