Ricin Poisoning after Oral Ingestion of Castor Beans: A Case Report and Review of the Literature and Laboratory Testing.J Emerg Med. 2017 Nov; 53(5):e67-e71.JE
Ricin is a protein toxin derived from the castor bean plant Ricinus communis. Several cases secondary to its consumption have been published and, more recently, its use as a potential bioterrorism agent has also been reported. Oral absorption of ricin is highly erratic, leading to a wide spectrum of symptoms. In addition, conventional urine drug screening tests will not be able to detect this compound, posing a diagnostic challenge.
A male teenager intended to die by ingesting 200 castor beans after mixing and blending them with juice. Eight hours later, he presented with weakness, light-headedness, nausea, and vomiting and sought medical treatment. The patient was admitted and treated conservatively. An immune-based standard urine toxicology drug screen panel was reported as negative. A comprehensive untargeted urine drug screen test showed the presence of ricinine, a surrogate marker of ricin intoxication. He was transferred to the psychiatric service 3 days after admission. WHY SHOULD AN EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN BE AWARE OF THIS?: This case highlights the importance of knowing the peculiar pharmacokinetic properties of ricin after oral ingestion of castor beans and toxin release through mastication. Emergency physicians should be aware that oral absorption of ricin is dependent on several factors, such type and size of seeds and the geographic harvesting region, making it extremely difficult to estimate its lethality based solely on the number of ingested beans. Finally, comprehensive untargeted urine drug screening testing is highly valuable as a diagnostic tool in this context.