Ricin Toxin

Authored by: Nicholas J. Mantis

Manual of Security Sensitive Microbes and Toxins

Print publication date:  April  2014
Online publication date:  April  2014

Print ISBN: 9781466553965
eBook ISBN: 9781466553989
Adobe ISBN:


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Ricin toxin is a 65 kDa glycoprotein found in the seeds of the castor bean (or castor oil) plant, Ricinus communis. Ricin, in purified or semipurified forms, is extremely toxic to humans (and other mammals) by injection, inhalation, or ingestion [1]. Because castor beans are ubiquitous in tropical and subtropical environments, and the toxin is relatively easy to purify in large amounts from crude bean extracts [14], ricin is considered a security concern and a potential biothreat agent by public health and military officials in the United States and abroad [57]. In fact, in the United States, the possession, use, and transfer of ricin toxin are regulated by the Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). At the international level, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) provides an oversight regarding the possession and purification of ricin. For more information regarding international regulatory oversight, see a recent excellent review by Worbs et al. [8].

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