SINGAPORE: A new diagnostic kit developed by Singapore’s DSO National Laboratories and the Defence Science Technology Organisation (DSTO) in Australia will allow for the testing of a potent toxin, known as ricin, in humans.
Ricin is found in the common castor bean plant and oil produced from the plant is widely used industrially.
A dose as small as a few grains of salt can kill an adult human if it is inhaled or injected.
The danger of ricin poisoning lies in the symptoms exhibited, which are similar to common food poisoning or respiratory illness.
This makes the diagnosis of ricin poisoning particularly challenging.
Ricin has also been known to be used in biological warfare.
With the new kit, ricin poisoning can be immediately detected, by running human samples such blood and stools, through the kit.
"For this test, we only need 50 micro—litres of sample. That’s probably equivalent to two drops if you do a fingerprick," said Chen Hsiao Ying, senior technical staff at the Defence, Medical & Environmental Research Institute.
A person can only be tested after ricin has been in the body for at least eight hours.
Current diagnostic kits can test for ricin contamination in food, soil or water, but not humans.
The new kit will be commercially available in two years’ time.
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