Is a protein toxin that is derived from castor oil seeds. It inhibits protein synthesis and has widespread toxic
effects on the body. These include damage to most organ systems and a combination of pulmonary, liver, renal and immunological failure may lead to death. No antidote is known: treatment can only be supportive.
Clinical features of ricin:
- The early symptoms depend on the route of exposure.
- Fever, gastrointestinal upset, coughing may be amongst the first effects noted.
- Absorption via the lung as a result of exposure to aerosolised toxin leads to particularly serious lung damage including pulmonary oedema and Adult Respiratory Distress Syndrome.
- Ingestion of ricin causes irritation of the gut: gastroenteritis, bloody diarrhoea and vomiting.
- Effects on the Central Nervous System have been reported including seizures and CNS depression.
The effects of exposure to ricin may be delayed for some hours after exposure and patients who develop a fever may
consult their own doctors.
A full range of guidance on ricin and other chemical and biological agents on the PHLS website.
Content by Dr Íomhar O' Sullivan. Published 11/03/2004. Reviewed by Dr ÍOS 01/05/2005, 01/09/2006, 26/11/2007. Last review Dr ÍÓS