Extracted from Ricinus communis, also called ricin (family of the euphorbiaceae), ricin is a natural toxin, extremely dangerous, which can be inhaled, ingested or injected. Ricin production is relatively easy and cheap.
Ricin, even in small quantities, is deadly in the pure state. Use of that substance under a spray form in the air is nevertheless characterized by a restricted number of victims in a short period of time.
Ricin poisoning is not contagious. Accidental exposure to ricin is unlikely. But if it does occur, it means that ricin has been deliberately used to poison.
Symptoms depend on the received dose and on the way it has been administered. When inhaled ricin provokes general weakening, fever, cough, breathlessness, chest pain and articular problems. Sweat and signs indicating serious superior and inferior airways respiratory disorders generally follow those symptoms.
In case of ingestion, symptoms observed are the following: vomiting, abdominal pains and severe diarrhoea.
The central nervous system can also be attacked leading to loss of consciousness.
Unfortunately, there is no remedy susceptible to counter the effects of ricin. Treatment is symptomatic: administration of medication aiming at reducing fever, anti-coughing, re-hydration, artificial respiration, etc.
It might be possible that, in the future, ricin plays a role in the fight against cancer.
Federal Public Service (FPS) Health, Food Chain Safety and Environment
Place Victor Horta, 40 box 10
Contact Center: +32 (0)2 524.97.97
Published on 29/10/2008 – Page last updated on 29/10/2008