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Toxins (Basel). 2011 Nov;3(11):1373-92. doi: 10.3390/toxins3111373. Epub 2011 Nov 4.

Understanding ricin from a defensive viewpoint.

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Biology Department, Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, Porton Down, Wiltshire SP4 0JQ, UK.


The toxin ricin has long been understood to have potential for criminal activity and there has been concern that it might be used as a mass-scale weapon on a military basis for at least two decades. Currently, the focus has extended to encompass terrorist activities using ricin to disrupt every day activities on a smaller scale. Whichever scenario is considered, there are features in common which need to be understood; these include the knowledge of the toxicity from ricin poisoning by the likely routes, methods for the detection of ricin in relevant materials and approaches to making an early diagnosis of ricin poisoning, in order to take therapeutic steps to mitigate the toxicity. This article will review the current situation regarding each of these stages in our collective understanding of ricin and how to defend against its use by an aggressor.


toxicology of ricin; antibody based tests; detection; ingestion; inhalation; mass spectrometry; parenteral (intramuscular); polymerase chain reaction

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