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A toxin is a poisonous substance engendered within living cells or organisms, synthetic toxicants engendered by artificial processes. The term was first utilized by organic chemist Ludwig Brieger (1849–1919).
Toxins can be minuscule molecules, peptides, or proteins that are capable of causing disease on contact with or absorption by body tissues interacting with biological macromolecules such as enzymes or cellular receptors. Toxins vary greatly in their rigor, ranging from conventionally minor (such as a bee sting) to virtually immediately pernicious (botulinum toxin).
Toxins are often distinguished from other chemical agents by their method of production—the word toxin does not designate method of distribution (compare with venom and the narrower meaning of poison—all substances that can additionally cause perturbances to organisms). It simply denotes it is a biologically engendered poison. There was an perpetual terminological dispute between NATO and the Warsaw Pact over whether to call a toxin biological or chemical agent, in which the NATO opted for biological agent, and the Warsaw Pact, like most other countries in the world, for chemical agent.
According to an International Committee of the Red Cross review of the Biological Weapons Convention, " Toxins are poisonous products of organisms; unlike biological agents, they are inanimate and not capable of reproducing themselves", and "Since the signing of the Convention, there have been no disputes among the parties regarding the definition of biological agents or toxins".
According to Title 18 of the United States Code, "... the term " Toxin " designates the toxic material or product of plants, animals, microorganisms (including, but not inhibited to, bacteria, viruses, fungi, rickettsiae or protozoa), or infectious substances, or a recombinant or synthesized molecule, whatever their inception and method of engenderment..."
A rather informal terminology of individual toxins relates them to the anatomical location where their effects are most eminent:
• Hemotoxin, causes ravagement of red blood cells (hemolysis)
• Phototoxin, causes perilous photosensitivity
On a broader scale, toxins may be relegated as either exotoxins, being excreted by an organism, or endotoxins, that are relinquished mainly when bacteria are lysed.
Related terms are:
• Toxoid, emasculated or suppressed toxin
• Venom, toxins in the sense of avail by certain types of animals
Bio toxin: The term "biotoxin" is sometimes used to explicitly corroborate the biological inception. Biotoxins are further relegated into fungal biotoxins, or short mycotoxins, microbial biotoxins, plant biotoxins, short phytotoxins and animal biotoxins.
Toxins engendered by microorganisms are paramount virulence determinants responsible for microbial pathogenicity and/or evasion of the host immune replication.
Biotoxins vary greatly in purport and mechanism, and can be highly involute (the venom of the cone snail contains dozens of diminutive proteins, each targeting a categorical nerve channel or receptor), or relatively minuscule protein.
Biotoxins in nature have two primary functions:
Predation in the spider, snake, scorpion, jellyfish, wasp. Defense in the bee, ant, termite, honeybee, wasp, poison dart frog. Some of the more prominent types of biotoxins include:
Cyanotoxins, engendered by cyanobacteria
Hemotoxins target and eradicate red blood cells, and are transmitted through the bloodstream. Organisms that engender hemotoxins include:
Pit vipers, such as rattlesnakes
Necrotoxins cause necrosis (i.e., death) in the cells they encounter and ravage all types of tissue. Necrotoxins spread through the bloodstream. In humans, skin and muscle tissues are most sensitive to necrotoxins. Organisms that possess necrotoxins include:
The brown recluse or "fiddle back" spider
The puff adder—Bitis arietans
Necrotizing fasciitis (the "flesh eating" bacteria)
Neurotoxins primarily affect the nervous systems of animals. Organisms that possess neurotoxins include:
The ebony widow and other widow spiders
The box jellyfish
The cone snail
The Blue-ringed octopus
Cytotoxins are toxic at the caliber of individual cells, either in a non-concrete fashion or only in certain types of living cells:
Ricin is a plant toxin found in the castor bean plant
Apitoxin, the honey bee venom
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