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Ricin has no antidote, can come in several forms

Updated: May 19, 2013 7:40AM



Ricin is a poison found in the castor bean plant, which is used to make castor oil. It can poison someone in numerous forms, including as a powder or mist, or dissolved in water. There is no antidote for ricin poisoning, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.

The CDC said it would take a deliberate act to make ricin and use it to poison someone. It is not contagious.

Ricin works by getting inside the cells of a person’s body and preventing the cells from making the proteins they need. Without the proteins, cells die. Eventually this is harmful to the whole body, and death may occur.

Because there is no antidote, the most important factor if you’ve been exposed to it is getting the ricin off or out of your body as quickly as possible, the CDC says.

Ricin has been used experimentally in medicine to kill cancer cells. In the 1940s, the U.S. military also experimented with ricin as a possible warfare agent. There also had been reports of ricin possibly being used as a warfare agent in the 1980s in Iraq and more recently by terrorist organizations, according to the CDC.

A famous example of ricin being used to poison someone was in 1978, when Bulgarian writer and journalist Georgi Markov died after being attacked by a man with an umbrella in London. The umbrella had been rigged to inject a ricin pellet under Markov’s skin.



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