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Toxins 2011, 3(10), 1332-1372; doi:10.3390/toxins3101332

Ricinus communis Intoxications in Human and Veterinary Medicine—A Summary of Real Cases

1 Centre for Biological Security, Microbial Toxins (ZBS3), Robert Koch-Institut, Nordufer 20, Berlin 13353, Germany 2 Institute of Veterinary Pathology, Justus Liebig University Giessen, Frankfurter Street 96, Giessen 35392, Germany 3 Biology and Chemistry Section, Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sports DDPS SPIEZ LABORATORY, Austrasse 1, Spiez CH-3700, Switzerland
* Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 15 August 2011 / Revised: 26 September 2011 / Accepted: 30 September 2011 / Published: 24 October 2011
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Ricin Toxin)
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Accidental and intended Ricinus communis intoxications in humans and animals have been known for centuries but the causative agent remained elusive until 1888 when Stillmark attributed the toxicity to the lectin ricin. Ricinus communis is grown worldwide on an industrial scale for the production of castor oil. As by-product in castor oil production ricin is mass produced above 1 million tons per year. On the basis of its availability, toxicity, ease of preparation and the current lack of medical countermeasures, ricin has gained attention as potential biological warfare agent. The seeds also contain the less toxic, but highly homologous Ricinus communis agglutinin and the alkaloid ricinine, and especially the latter can be used to track intoxications. After oil extraction and detoxification, the defatted press cake is used as organic fertilizer and as low-value feed. In this context there have been sporadic reports from different countries describing animal intoxications after uptake of obviously insufficiently detoxified fertilizer. Observations in Germany over several years, however, have led us to speculate that the detoxification process is not always performed thoroughly and controlled, calling for international regulations which clearly state a ricin threshold in fertilizer. In this review we summarize knowledge on intended and unintended poisoning with ricin or castor seeds both in humans and animals, with a particular emphasis on intoxications due to improperly detoxified castor bean meal and forensic analysis.
Keywords: ricin; poisoning; animal intoxication; human intoxication; fertilizer ricin; poisoning; animal intoxication; human intoxication; fertilizer
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY) which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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Worbs, S.; Köhler, K.; Pauly, D.; Avondet, M.-A.; Schaer, M.; Dorner, M.B.; Dorner, B.G. Ricinus communis Intoxications in Human and Veterinary Medicine—A Summary of Real Cases. Toxins 2011, 3, 1332-1372.

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