Apr 13, 2009
Scientists say they have developed a fast and supersensitive new test for ricin, a poison found in castor beans that scientists say is a prime candidate for use in bioterrorism attacks. The new method, described in research recently published in Analytical Chemistry, takes only three minutes to detect ricin and is 100 to 1,000 times more sensitive than tests currently available, according to study co-author Vern Schramm, a biochemist at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University in Bronx, N.Y.
Ricin comes from the castor bean plant Ricinus communis, which is easy and cheap to grow. Extracting the poison from the beans requires simple chromatography, a method of separating chemicals taught in college chemistry classes. If eaten, inhaled or injected into the bloodstream, ricin kills cells by interfering with their ability to manufacture proteins, which can lead to organ failure and death, Schramm explains. There is no treatment for ricin exposure, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
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