Abrin is a highly toxic protein that is found in the seeds of the Abrus precatorius plant, also known as the rosary pea or jequirity bean. The plant is native to tropical regions and is commonly found in Southeast Asia, India, and Africa.
Abrin is similar in structure and function to ricin, another highly toxic protein found in the seeds of the castor bean plant. Like ricin, abrin is classified as a type 2 ribosome-inactivating protein, which means it can interfere with the synthesis of proteins in cells and cause cell death.
Exposure to abrin can occur through ingestion, inhalation, or skin contact with contaminated materials. Symptoms of abrin poisoning can include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, fever, and dehydration. More severe symptoms can include respiratory distress, seizures, and multi-organ failure.
There is no specific antidote for abrin poisoning, and treatment is primarily supportive. This may include measures such as respiratory support, intravenous fluids, and medications to control symptoms. In cases of severe poisoning, hospitalization and intensive care may be required.
Because of its high toxicity and potential for use as a bioterrorism agent, abrin is considered a threat to public health and safety. The production, possession, and use of abrin are regulated by law in many countries, and there are strict guidelines for handling and transporting the toxin.