Ricin - what is this poison
Everyone knows castor oil, which is widely used in medicine and cosmetology. Even in antiquity, its amazing properties were used to heal wounds and restore skin. Castor oil is extracted from the seeds of the plant - Castor bean (Ricinus communis L). It grows in many countries, including Russia, in temperate zones.
But few people know that, in addition to castor oil, castor beans seeds contain toxic compounds - toxalbumin and alkaloids with cyano group. To them belongs ricin - poison of plant origin.
Ricin poisoning belong to the 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 what cases can ricin be poisoned?
Ricin and castor bean
The castor beetle is an annual bushy plant. The height of the stems reaches two or even three meters, their color is diverse - green, red, brownish. The leaves are large, pinnate, green, located on the stem alternately on long petioles. Castor bean blooms beautiful small flowers, collected in racemes. Fruits have the appearance of a red spherical box with spikes. In the box are the seeds, in appearance they resemble ticks, whence the plant got its name. Castor bead looks beautiful, grows quickly 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 cold pressing, with the result that all hazardous substances remain in the cake.
In addition to castor oil and proteins, castor seeds contain ricin. This is a high molecular weight compound of protein nature, referring to natural toxins. Its seeds can contain up to 3%, and also from 0.1 to 1% alkaloid with a similar effect - ricinin. Next, combine them under the common name "ricin". The plant in small quantities contains these poisons in the leaves and shoots, but for clinical cases of poisoning only seeds matter.
Ricin poisoning develops after ingestion of very small doses. Thus, the lethal dose for humans is 0.003 mg of pure substance per kg of body weight, which corresponds to the consumption of 6 castor beans for children and 20 seeds for adults. When administered intramuscularly in 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:
these are odorless white crystals, soluble in water;
- may exist in amorphous and crystalline form;
- ricin molecule is stable under room conditions, but it collapses when heated above + 80 ° C and loses its properties;
- ricin toxin is poorly stable in aqueous solutions.
Through the skin, the poison does not penetrate, acts only when ingested or through injection. Cases of poisoning by castor beans occur quite often, so the toxic properties of the poison are well studied. In laboratories, ricin is used to provoke cancer processes in experimental animals.
The effect of ricin is manifested at the cellular level. Penetrating into the cell structures - the ribosomes, the toxin disrupts protein synthesis, and, accordingly, the work of the cell as a whole. A curious property of ricin has been proven - splitting into subunits, it can form bonds with molecules of other toxins or polypeptides, as a result of which a new toxic compound is obtained that is not found in nature.
Symptoms of ricin poisoning
In case of ricin poisoning, symptoms develop after 15-24 hours. If the poisoning occurred by inhalation of a toxin, then signs may appear earlier - in 4–8 hours. In an allergic reaction, symptoms develop immediately after contact with poison.
burning on the mucous membranes of the gastrointestinal tract;
- nausea, vomiting;
- diarrhea, often with blood;
- intestinal colic.
Hemorrhages (hemorrhages) on the retina are characteristic signs of ricin poisoning.
In severe cases, these symptoms develop:
- collapse (a sharp drop in blood pressure);
Death occurs in 6–8 days due to severe damage to the liver and spleen, extensive hemorrhages in the stomach and intestines, and toxic kidney dystrophy. Pancreas suffers greatly. Erythrocytes, hemoglobin, protein and cylindrical cells appear in the urine. Characteristic changes are found in the lymph nodes of the abdominal cavity.
Skin contact ricin does not have any negative effect. After contact of ricin powder with mucous membranes, burning, redness, tearing 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 in the laboratory, with the size of the aerosol particles must be a certain size - too large drops settle in the upper respiratory tract, small ones come out with exhaled air back.
First aid and treatment
There is no antidote for ricin. In case of poisoning with this toxin, general measures should be taken to prevent the further absorption of the poison and immediately take the victim to hospital.
First aid is provided as follows.
- Give a drink of 2–4 glasses of water with a suspension of activated carbon.
- Inside take a mucous solution - rice or flax decoction, starch, jelly.
- 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.
Besides 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 castor bean seeds are ineffective. Carry out measures to remove poison from the intestines, symptomatic and supportive treatment:
- restore blood pressure;
- urine alkalization is performed to prevent the precipitation of kidney hemoglobin;
- inside give to take enveloping drugs;
- laxatives (magnesia) and deep enemas to cleanse the intestines;
- blood transfusion;
- with severe pain, morphine is administered together with atropine.
Recommended oxygen therapy.
Consequences of ricin poisoning
If ricin poisoning has occurred, the consequences may be the most negative. The harm caused to the body depends on the degree of exposure of the poison to the internal organs. First of all, the stomach and intestines suffer - an acute hemorrhagic inflammation develops, which can become chronic. After recovery for some time, you must follow the diet prescribed by your doctor.
The liver and pancreas also suffer greatly. Toxic hepatitis , a violation of the production of bile, pancreatic enzymes, insulin - this is an incomplete list of possible problems. The kidneys are affected by severe poisoning, when decay products and hemoglobin begin to be excreted through them. With timely medical intervention, the urinary system suffers less than the intestines or the liver. Negative reactions from the cardiovascular system, as a rule, pass without consequences.
Let's sum up. Ricin poisoning in the home is unlikely, but still possible. This poison is found in the seeds of the castor plant, which is planted for decorative purposes and 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, a maximum in a day, nausea, vomiting, sharp abdominal pain, and diarrhea with blood occur. Further, the patient's condition worsens, there may be convulsions and a drop in blood pressure until the collapse. The victim must be taken to a doctor, where he will receive medical assistance: gastric lavage, bowel cleansing, supportive therapy. There is no specific antidote against ricin. It is slowly eliminated from the body, it cannot be cleaned by dialysis, so the treatment lasts several weeks. Abroad, research is underway to create a vaccine against ricin.