Biological toxins are a heterogeneous group of compounds that share commonalities with biological and chemical agents. Among them, protein toxins represent a considerable, diverse set. They cover a broad range of molecular weights from less than 1000 Da to more than 150 kDa. This review aims to compare conventional detection methods of protein toxins such as in vitro bioassays with proteomic methods, including immunoassays and mass spectrometry-based techniques and their combination. Special emphasis is given to toxins falling into a group of selected agents, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, such as Staphylococcal enterotoxins
, Bacillus anthracis
toxins, Clostridium botulinum
toxins, Clostridium perfringens
epsilon toxin, ricin from Ricinus communis
, Abrin from Abrus precatorius
or control of trade in dual-use items in the European Union, including lesser known protein toxins such as Viscumin from Viscum album
. The analysis of protein toxins and monitoring for biological threats, i.e., the deliberate spread of infectious microorganisms or toxins through water, food, or the air, requires rapid and reliable methods for the early identification of these agents.
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