Ricin - what is this poison
Everyone knows castor oil, which is widely used in medicine and cosmetology. Its amazing properties were used in ancient times for wound healing and skin regeneration. They extract castor oil from the seeds of the plant - Kleshchevina vulgaris (Ricinus communis L). It grows in many countries, including Russia - in temperate climates.
But few people know that in addition to castor oil, castor seeds contain toxic compounds - toxalbumins and alkaloids with cyano group. To them belongs ricin - a poison of vegetable origin.
Ricin poisoning refers to a group of intoxications with plant poisons. What is ricin, and what effect does it have on the human body? How to recognize castor oil, and in which cases can be poisoned with ricin?
Ricin and castor oil
An ordinary plumage is an annual bushy plant. The height of the stems reaches two and even three meters, their color is diverse - green, red, brownish. Leaves are large, pinnate, green, located on the stem alternately on long petioles. Kleshchevina blooms beautiful small flowers, collected in racemose inflorescences. Fruits have the form of a red globular capsule with spines. In the box are seeds, in appearance they resemble ticks, from where the plant got its name. Kleshchevina looks beautiful, grows fast and is often used as an ornamental plant in landscape design. In addition, it is grown as an agricultural crop to produce castor oil. It is produced by the method of cold pressing, as a result of which all dangerous substances remain in the cake.
In addition to castor oil and proteins, castor seeds contain ricin. This is a high molecular weight protein compound that relates to natural toxins. In seeds, it can contain up to 3%, as well as from 0.1 to 1% alkaloid with a similar action - ricinin. Further, we will unite them under the general name "ricin". The plant in small quantities contains these poisons in leaves and shoots, but for clinical cases of poisoning only seeds matter.
Poisoning with ricin develops after ingestion of very small doses. So, the lethal dose for a person is 0.003 mg of pure substance per kg of weight, this corresponds to eating 6 seeds of castor oil for children and 20 for adults. When administered intramuscularly under the experimental conditions for mice, the lethal dose is 0.0075 mg / kg, for cats 0.0002 mg / kg, for dogs 0.0006 mg / kg.
Properties of ricin in pure form:
are white crystals that are odorless, soluble in water;
- can exist in an amorphous and crystalline form;
- in room conditions, the ricin molecule is stable, but it breaks down when heated above + 80 ° C, and loses its properties;
- toxin ricin is not very stable in aqueous solutions.
Through the skin, the poison does not penetrate, it acts only when ingested or through injection. Cases of poisoning with castor beans occur quite often, so the toxic properties of the poison are well studied. In laboratories, ricin is used to provoke cancerous processes in experimental animals.
The action of ricin is manifested at the cellular level. Penetrating into cellular structures - ribosomes, the toxin breaks the synthesis of protein, and accordingly the work of the cell as a whole. The curious property of ricin - splitting into subunits - is proved, it can form bonds with molecules of other toxins or polypeptides, resulting in a new poisonous compound that does not occur in nature.
Symptoms of ricin poisoning
In case of poisoning with ricin, symptoms develop after 15-24 hours. If the poisoning occurred by inhaling a toxin, the symptoms may appear earlier - after 4-8 hours. In case of an allergic reaction, the symptoms develop immediately after contact with the poison.
burning on the mucous membranes of the gastrointestinal tract;
- nausea, vomiting;
- diarrhea, often with blood;
- intestinal colic.
A characteristic sign of poisoning with ricin are hemorrhages (hemorrhages) on the retina of the eye.
In severe cases, such symptoms develop:
- collapse (a sharp drop in blood pressure);
Death occurs in 6-8 days due to severe lesions of the liver and spleen, extensive hemorrhages in the stomach and intestines, toxic kidney dystrophy. The pancreas is severely affected. In the urine appear erythrocytes, hemoglobin, protein and cylindrical cells. Characteristic changes are found in the lymph nodes of the abdominal cavity.
If it gets on the skin, ricin does not have any negative effect. After contact of ricin powder with mucous membranes, burning, redness, lacrimation or pain in the eyes are possible. You should consider the possibility of getting poison inside, for example, if he stayed on his hands, and then you ate or smoked.
Poisoning by inhalation in practical conditions is not found. The situation was recreated under laboratory conditions, while the particle size of the aerosol should be of a certain size - too much droplets settle in the upper respiratory tract, the small ones exhale with exhaled air.
First aid and treatment
There is no antidote for ricin. When poisoning with this toxin should take general measures to prevent further absorption of poison and immediately deliver the victim to the hospital.
The first help is rendered as follows.
- Give a drink of 2-4 glasses of water with a suspension of activated carbon.
- Inside take a slimy solution - rice or linseed broth, starch, kissel.
- Give 5-15 grams of sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) to maintain the kidneys.
In the hospital, the victim is washed with a solution of the stomach with a suspension of activated carbon.
In addition to the fact that there is no antidote for ricin, this substance has a large molecule size, and therefore is poorly excreted by the kidneys. Standard methods of cleaning the body - forced diuresis and hemodialysis - when poisoning with seeds, castor oil are ineffective. Take measures to remove poison from the intestine, symptomatic and supportive treatment:
- restore blood pressure;
- alkalinization of urine to prevent the deposition of hemoglobin of the kidneys;
- inside give to take enveloping preparations;
- laxatives (magnesia) and deep enemas for bowel cleansing;
- blood transfusion;
- In severe pain, morphine is administered together with atropine.
Oxygen therapy is recommended.
Consequences of ricin poisoning
If there has been poisoning with ricin, the consequences can be the most negative. The damage caused to the body depends on the degree of poison effect on internal organs. First of all, the stomach and intestines suffer - an acute hemorrhagic inflammation develops, which can go on into a chronic form. After recovery for some time, you must follow the diet prescribed by your doctor.
Liver and pancreas are also severely affected. Toxic hepatitis , a violation of the production of bile, pancreatic enzymes, insulin - that's an incomplete list of possible problems. The kidneys are affected by severe poisoning, when decay products and hemoglobin begin to be released through them. With timely medical intervention, the urinary system suffers less than the intestine or liver. Negative reactions from the cardiovascular system, as a rule, pass without consequences.
Let's sum up. Ricin poisoning in domestic conditions is unlikely, but still possible. This poison is contained in the seeds of the castor oil plant, which is planted for decorative purposes, and is also cultivated to produce castor oil. Intoxication occurs when eating seeds: for a child it is enough to swallow about six pieces, for an adult - about twenty. After 6-12 hours, maximum after a day, there is nausea, vomiting, sharp pains in the abdomen, diarrhea with blood. Further, the patient's condition worsens, convulsions and a drop in blood pressure are possible right up to the collapse. The victim must be taken to the doctor, where he will receive medical care: gastric lavage, intestinal cleansing, maintenance therapy. There is no specific antidote against ricin. It is excreted slowly from the body, can not be purified by dialysis, so treatment lasts several weeks. Abroad, studies are underway to create a vaccine against ricin.