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Ricin

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Rricin A yellow, Ricin B blue

Ricin is a protein toxin that is left over as waste from the processing of castor beans. It is a very stable substance that is not affected by extreme heat or cold weather. Since any amateur can make Ricin, it poses a threat from terrorism. Ricin poison is highly unlikely to be isolated by accident since only deliberate actions can result in serious exposures.[1]

Ricin Chains

Ricin A

The A chain of the ricin molecule acts on the 60S ribosomal subunits and prevents the binding of elongation factor-2. This inhibits protein synthesis and leads to cell death. This basic structure of ricin is similar to those of the botulinum toxin, cholera toxin, diphtheria toxin, tetanus toxin, and insulin.[2]

Ricin B

The B chain holds onto the cell surface glycoproteins and affects what enters the cell by an unknown mechanism. The ricin B lectin domain is made of of three homologous sub-domains of 40 amino acids (alpha, beta and gamma) and a linker peptide of approximately 15 residues (lambda). It has been announced that the ricin B lectin domain came about by gene triplication from a primitive 40 residue galactoside-binding peptide. PUBMED:3561502, and PUBMED:1881882

Castor Plant

The Castor Bean Plant is a member of the Spurge family of plants Euphorbiaceous. The plant only grows in Africa and can grow up to 40 feet tall. Since the plant does not have petals to attract bees for pollination, it relies on the wind for pollination. The seed is 50% castor oil and the oil is mostly ricinoleic acid. Evidence shows that ancient Egypt used the oil as a medicine for curing general sicknesses such as the common cold.[3]

DESCRIPTION

Hazards

Digestion

Within a short while after digestion of the poison, you will experience the following: abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, bloody diarrhea, and damage to major organs

Inhalation

If Ricin is inhaled a person may suffer weakness, fever, nausea, dyspnea (difficulty breathing), cough, or pulmonary edema, as well as arthralgia (pain in the joints). If a lethal dose is inhaled you will experience death.

The military has developed vaccines for Both Ricin A and B. [4]

Military Uses

Right after WWI the United States sought out the potential of Ricin. At that period in time it was used either as a toxic dust or as a coating for bullets and shrapnel. During WWII the U.S started making Ricin cluster bombs. Since Ricin's toxicity needs a few milligrams to kill (LCt50 ~40 mg·min/m3)it is rated as very deadly. Ricin soon was given the military symbol W which later became known as WA. But this program was shortly dropped for another program to weaponize sarin.[5]

Terrorist Threat

Ricin proves to be a very serious terrorist threat for it is easy to produce (Since it is the waste left over from the external Castor liquid). Ricin is much easier to produce than Anthrax and also proves to be difficult or impossible to detect.[6] Also, a month after 9/11 letter bombs containing the Ricin poison were sent out to U.S congressmen, none were affected. People are well aware now that Ricin may come in different forms. Most Ricin terrorist groups originated from Al-Qaeda.[7]

Ricin Incidents

1978 Assassination

On 7 September 1978 the Bulgarian broadcaster Georgi Markov died when he was stabbed in the leg on the Waterloo Bridge in the middle of London by a man using a weapon built into a pen. It was found later that a small pellet containing ricin was lodged in his leg.[8]

2003 Arrest

On 5 January 2003 the Metropolitan Police raided a flat in north London and arrested six Algerian men whom they claimed were manufacturing ricin as part of a plot for a poison attack on the London Underground. It was decided that this was a hoax, since no Ricin was found.

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