toxins

The signs as poisons or toxins

Aries: VX, a nerve agent developed for no reason other than to be a bio-weapon. It causes violent muscle contractions followed by paralysis, asphyxiation, and death. 

Taurus: Deadly nightshade, a plant that can be used as a hallucinogen at low doses. An overdose causes abnormally fast heart rate, loss of balance, and convulsions. A lethal overdose involves a lack of control over heart rate, breathing, and sweating followed by death. 

Gemini: Sarin, a highly volatile nerve agent that’s been used in several terrorist attacks. It can cause effects as a liquid or a gas and leads to tightness in the chest followed by nausea, muscle convulsions, suffocation, and death. 

Cancer: Amatoxin, a toxin produced by several species of poisonous mushrooms. It causes burns where it comes into contact with the body and leads to liver damage and eventual liver and/or kidney failure. 

Leo: Ricin, a protein derived from castor seeds. It leads to swelling and bleeding in the digestive tract, followed shortly by low blood pressure, shock, organ failure, and death. It has also been used in terrorist attacks.

Virgo: Mercury, element 80 on periodic table. Exposure causes burning and itching along with the sensation of insects crawling on one’s skin or skin peeling from the body. Long-term exposure leads to severe brain damage and death. 

Libra: Tetrodotoxin, a neurotoxin found in pufferfish and some other species of the same order. The toxin causes a lack of function in voluntary muscles, including the diaphragm, which leads to paralysis, asphyxiation, and death. 

Scorpio: Cyanide, the chemical compound KCN. Results depend on exposure; low long-term exposure can cause eventual paralysis and increased chance of miscarriages, while high doses result in seizures, cardiac arrest, and death. 

Sagittarius: Strychnine, an alkaloid derived from the Strychnos nux-vomica tree and used as a pesticide. In humans it causes dramatic and painful convulsions that can lead to muscles locking up and organs failing. Those exposed die of either asphyxiation or exhaustion from the convulsions.

Capricorn: Polonium, a radioactive metal and number 84 on the periodic table. It can cause death in extremely small doses, and long-term exposure leads to radiation poisoning, which can cause kidney or liver failure, cancer, and eventual death. 

Aquarius: Arsenic, a toxic metal that is number 33 on the periodic table. Acute poisoning can lead to hair loss, muscle cramping, convulsions, and death. Long-term exposure, such as through groundwater, may lead to nightblindness, organ failure, cancer, and eventual death. 

Pisces: Mustard gas, a chemical weapon used largely in World War I. It causes causes large chemical burns and blisters, including potential internal burns in the lungs. Even when these symptoms aren’t lethal, exposure may lead to severe health problems years later. 

Castor oil plant (Ricinus communis) from Maria Sibylla’s Metamorphosis Insectorum Surinamensium

In 2007 edition of Guinness World Records the castor oil plant was named the most poisonous plant in the world. Just 4-8 seeds are enough to kill a grown person. The toxicity of this plant is due to the ricin it contains. Ricin is a chemical compound that inhibits ribosomes in the cells. As ribosomes are the molecules which produce proteins in the cells, once ricin interacts with ribosomes the protein production stops and it eventually kills the cell. 

Extracts of castor oil plant have been widely used both as medicine and as poison. Under the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention ricin is marked as a schedule 1 controlled substance. Over the course of history ricin has been considered for use as a biological weapon as a part of bombs and bullets. In medicine ricin has been used in experiments involving cancer tumor treatment and improvement of vaccine immunogenicity. 

Mother Nature’s poisonous plants to humans...

Monkshood (Aconitum napellus)

The most poisonous part is the roots, though the leaves can pack a punch too. Both contain a neurotoxin that can be absorbed through the skin. Early symptoms of poisoning are tingling and numbness at the point of contact or severe vomiting and diarrhea if it has been eaten. In 2010, a woman poisoned her lover using this plant. Apart from causing severe gastrointestinal upset, the poison slows the heart rate which can result in death.

Giant hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum)

These weeds are massive and pretty hard to miss when they are towering over you.  The sap of the giant hogweed plant is phototoxic; when the contacted skin is exposed to sunlight or to ultraviolet rays it can cause severe skin inflammations. Initially, the skin colours red and starts itching. 

Blisters form as it burns within 48 hours. They form black or purplish scars that can last several years. Hospitalization may be necessary.  The presence of minute amounts of sap in the eyes can lead to temporary or even permanent blindness.

The manchineel tree (Hippomane mancinella) 

Found in northern South America up to the Florida Everglades and throughout the Caribbean. In some parts of its range it’s painted with a cautionary red cross. They grow little green fruits that were once called the ‘little apple of death’ by Columbus. 

The milky sap produced by this tree contains the powerful irritant phorbol. Just brushing past it can leave you with horribly scalded skin. Sheltering beneath it in a tropical shower can be disastrous too because even the diluted sap can cause an extreme rash.  Burning down these trees is also a bad idea. The smoke from a burning manchineel can temporarily blind a person and cause significant breathing problems.  While the effects are unpleasant, skin contact with this tropical tree can’t kill you. The real death threat comes from eating its small round fruit.  Ingesting the fruit can prove fatal when severe vomiting and diarrhea dehydrate the body to the point of no return.

Ricinus communis

Now well known thanks to Walter White in Breaking Bad. This plant is used to make caster oil.  After the laxative oil has been extracted the remaining residues of its mottled brown seeds contain a potent cocktail of toxins. 

Ricin kills by interfering in cell metabolism, the basic chemical processes needed to sustain life. The creation of essential proteins is blocked, leading to cell death. Casualties can suffer vomiting, diarrhea and seizures for up to a week before dying of organ failure.

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Tetrodotoxin

Tetrodotoxin, frequently abbreviated as TTX, is a potent neurotoxin. Its name derives from Tetraodontiformes, an order that includes pufferfish, porcupinefish, ocean sunfish, and triggerfish; several species that carry the toxin. Although tetrodotoxin was discovered in these fish and found in several other animals (e.g., blue-ringed octopus, rough-skinned newt, and Naticidae) it is actually produced by certain symbiotic bacteria, such as Pseudoalteromonas tetraodonis, certain species of Pseudomonas and Vibrio, as well as some others that reside within these animals.

Tetrodotoxin inhibits the firing of action potentials in nerves by binding to the voltage-gated sodium channels in nerve cell membranes and blocking the passage of sodium ions (responsible for the rising phase of an action potential) into the nerve cell.

TTX is extremely toxic. The Material Safety Data Sheet for TTX lists the oral median lethal dose (LD50) for mice as 334 μg per kg. For comparison, the oral LD50 of potassium cyanide for mice is 8.5 mg per kg, demonstrating that even orally, TTX is more poisonous than cyanide. TTX is even more dangerous if injected; the amount needed to reach a lethal dose by injection only 8 μg per kg in mice.

Toxic chemicals found in beached pilot whales in Scotland

Scientists have found clear evidence that whales are absorbing high levels of toxic heavy metals, with cadmium found in the brains of pilot whales which washed up in Scotland

The research shows for the first time that cadmium – known to pass into the brains of infant and unborn whales - had also passed across the so-called blood-brain barrier in adult whales.

They said their findings also suggested that mercury concentrations could be increasing high enough in the seas “to lead to additional toxic stress in the long-lived marine mammals”, with higher concentrations increasing with age.

In three of the whales aged nine years or older, the mercury concentrations were higher than the toxic levels which would cause severe neurological damage in humans. 

Mercury in some of the beached whales brains was at levels high enough to cause severe neurological damage in humans, say scientists. Photograph: Andrew Milligan/PA

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Tweet: Alicia Cahuiya preparing to speak at @CIDH about criminalization of environment defenders in #Ecuador @Yasunidos

Tweet: Líder indígena #Ecuador: Es la única selva que nos queda. La están contaminando. Pido que visiten y vean lo que pasa 

A Logical Approach to a Vomiting Animal

I am now officially a third year vet student and loving life at the RVC’s Hawkshead campus in Hertfordshire. It’s a big change from London but the course content is a lot more clinical and exciting and it’s quite refreshing to be out in the countryside with London only 20 minutes away.

This post is to help outline the main reasons as to why an animal may be vomiting. When presented with a vomiting animal in practice it’s important to be able to narrow down different reasons and know what tests to do to reach a plausible diagnosis.

Firstly, it is vital to distinguish between vomiting and other similar presentations. One of these is regurgitation. Vomiting is an active process triggered by a part of the brain called the vomiting centre. It involves contractions of abdominal muscles and the stomach, along with closure of the glottis to prevent ‘breathing in’ the vomitus, which will most likely look partially digested and may even have a green tinge from bile in the alimentary tract. It is often preceded by a period of nausea in which hyper-salivation may occur, manifesting as repeated lip licking and swallowing.  Regurgitation on the other hand is a passive process in which food, probably looking less digested and covered in saliva, is passively ejected from the oesophagus with the aid of gravity. Gagging can occur in cases of regurgitation as well as vomiting. Regurgitation is caused by disorders often very different to those causing vomiting, and further diagnostic tests along with treatment will vary for each so it is important to distinguish between the two. Questions to ask the client if unsure include inquiring in to the appearance of the ‘thrown up’ food and whether the animal was contracting its abdomen. If you can’t reach a conclusion it is important to observe the animal yourself.

If you have distinguished that the patient is vomiting, the next step is to work out why. As mentioned before, vomiting is triggered by a ‘vomiting centre’ in the brain. This has a number of influences including toxins and chemicals in the blood, receptors in the gut and abdominal organs sensing inflammation, irritation and stretching and inputs form the brain such as smell, fear, motion sickness and taste.

Causes of vomiting can be divided in to primary gastrointestinal tract (GIT) problems and secondary GIT problems. Primary problems include those directly affecting the GIT (stomach, large and small intestines) and can be divided in to structural or functional causes. Secondary diseases involve organs and systems outside of the GIT including the pancreas, liver, brain and kidneys as well as endocrine systems, disorders of which can cause a build-up of toxins in the blood.

Primary causes of vomiting can further be divided in to gastric (stomach related) or non-gastric. Structural problems include a foreign body blockage, neoplasia, dietary indiscretion, parasites and infection. Functional problems refer to those affecting the movement of the gut, such as the muscles that move food along. Clues that help diagnose the cause as primary include if a foreign body can be palpated and if the vomiting is associated with diarrhoea.

Secondary causes of vomiting can be divided in to endocrine (relating to hormones), neural (triggered by the brain, be it motion sickness, a smell etc), and non-GI organs such as the kidney and liver. Quite often with secondary disease the clues are that the animal is obviously metabolically ill, for instance jaundice in the case of liver disease, and that vomiting is not related to when the animal eats.

It is important to hone down the cause of the vomiting in order to select the most appropriate treatment. It may be advised to run a blood and urine test on the animal to begin with (following a thorough physical exam to try and palpate foreign bodies/ inflamed organs). In an animal with secondary GI disease these blood tests are likely to highlight potential imbalances in minerals and toxins such as urea. Although less diagnostic in an animal with a primary cause of vomiting, the tests still give useful information on the clinical status of the patient, for instance if they are dehydrated.

If the cause is suspected to be primary, imaging is the next port of call, with radiography being a great way to get a better idea of what is causing the problem. Using contrast radiography is especially useful for spotting foreign body blockages. Ultrasound can also be very useful. Sometimes an operation called an exploratory laparotomy may occur, in which the vet surgically explores the GI tract to search for a cause. Remember for primary the cause could be something that recedes on its own, such as the dog eating the contents of a bin. This is much less likely with secondary disease.

Overall, it’s important to approach cases of vomiting with a logical frame of mind. You need to consider all the options and slowly rule these out with appropriate diagnostic tests. It’s not easy, and the last thing you want to do is put the animal through unnecessary procedures and waste the client’s time and money. This vet malarkey is hard eh!

You speak to me
in an unspoken vernacular,
a deafening silence
thundering through my veins
like toxins; an explicit passion
which is, not so strangely,
more uplifting than braille,
and far beyond the capacities
of mediocre comprehension.

You speak to me
in a thousand different
tongues, all at once;
none of which are
known to man,
and all of which
are entirely our own.

It is no wonder why
they don’t understand.

—  Nav K

Apitoxin: The Bee Sting Venom

Apitoxin, or honey bee venom, is a bitter colourless liquid. Its active portion is a mixture of proteins, which causes local inflammation and acts as an anticoagulant. A honeybee can inject 0.1 mg of venom via its stinger. It may have similarities to sea nettle toxin.

One of the main component is Melittin amounting to 52% of venom peptides.
Other components are:

  • Apamin increases cortisol production in the adrenal gland. mild neurotoxin.
  • Adolapin,contributing 2–5% of the peptides, acts as an anti-inflammatory and analgesic because it blocks cyclooxygenase.
  • Phospholipase A2 amounts to 10–12% of peptides and it is the most destructive component of apitoxin. It is an enzyme which degrades the phospholipids which cellular membranes are made of. It also causes decreased blood pressure and inhibits blood coagulation. Phospholipase A2 activates arachidonic acid which is metabolized in thecyclooxygenase-cycle to form prostaglandins. Prostaglandins regulate the body’s inflammatory response.
  • Hyaluronidase contributing 1–3% of peptides dilates the capillaries causing the spread of inflammation.
  • Histamine contributing 0.5–2% and is involved in the allergic response.
  • Dopamine and noradrenaline which contribute 1–2% increase pulse rate.
  • Protease-inhibitors contribute 2% and act as anti-inflammatory agents and stop bleeding.
  • Tertiapin - No idea what this is.

Giffed by: rudescience  From: this video

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TOXINS WILL EAT YOUR BRAAAAAAIIIIINNNNNSSSS.

Or not.