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  • Introduction

  • Introduction to Plant Toxicities

  • Toxic Effects by Organ

    • Skin

      • Irritant Contact Dermatitis

      • Allergic Contact Dermatitis

      • Photosensitivity

    • Respiratory Tract

      • Allergic Rhinitis

      • Cough Reflex

      • Toxin-Associated Pneumonia

    • Gastrointestinal System

      • Direct Irritant Effects

      • Antimitotic Effects

      • Protein Synthesis Inhibition

    • Cardiovascular System

      • Cardioactive Glycosides

      • Actions on Cardiac Nerves

      • Vasoactive Chemicals

    • Liver

      • Hepatocyte Damage

      • Mushroom Toxins

      • Mycotoxins

    • Kidney and Bladder

      • Carcinogens

      • Kidney Tubular Degeneration

    • Blood and Bone Marrow

      • Anticoagulants

      • Bone Marrow Genotoxicity

      • Cyanogens

    • Nervous System

      • Epileptiform Seizures

      • Excitatory Amino Acids

      • Motor Neuron Demyelination

      • Cerebellar Neurons

      • Parasympathetic Stimulation

      • Parasympathetic Block

      • Sensory Neuron Block

    • Skeletal Muscle and Neuromuscular Junction

      • Neuromuscular Junction

      • Skeletal Muscle Damage

    • Bone and Tissue Calcification

      • Bone and Soft Tissue

    • Reproduction and Teratogenesis

      • Abortifacients

      • Teratogens

  • Clinical Study of Plant Poisons

  • Summary of Plant Toxicities

  • Introduction to Animal Venoms

  • Properties of Animal Toxins

  • Arthropods

  • Arachnida

    • Scorpions

    • Spiders

      • Agelenopsis Species (American Funnel Web Spiders)

      • Latrodectus Species (Widow Spiders)

      • Loxosceles Species (Brown or Violin Spiders)

      • Steatoda Species

      • Cheiracanthium Species (Running Spiders)

      • Theraphosidae Species (Tarantulas)

    • Ticks

  • Chilopoda (Centipedes)

  • Diplopoda (Millipedes)

  • Insecta

    • Heteroptera (True Bugs)

    • Hymenoptera (Ants, Bees, Wasps, and Hornets)

      • Formicidae (Ants)

      • Apidae (Bees)

      • Vespidae (Wasps)

    • Lepidoptera (Caterpillars, Moths, and Butterflies)

  • Mollusca (Cone Snails)

  • Reptiles

    • Lizards

    • Snakes

      • General Information and Classification

      • Snake Venoms

      • Enzymes

      • Polypeptides

      • Toxicology

      • Snakebite Treatment

      • Snake Venom Evolution

  • Antivenom

  • Potential Clinical Application of Venoms

  • Conclusion

  • Acknowledgment


History is replete with stories of the earliest humans using plant extracts and animal venoms for hunting, war, assassination, and political intrigue for millennia. Even the Ebers Papyrus, which dates to around 1550 bc, describes concoctions using plant substances as primary ingredients. The toxic properties of plants and animals often enhance their ability to survive. These toxic adaptations reflect how the organism interacts with its surroundings and with its predators. Some toxic compounds are used primarily to aid an animal in obtaining food while plants have developed toxic properties to specifically ward off being used as food. These toxic compounds are invaluable in the insight that they provide into the systems that they disrupt and poison. One major complication to the study of plant and animal poisons arises from their complexity as mixtures. Studies readily separate and evaluate individual components, but it is very difficult to use purified components to make the original toxin or venom. Nevertheless, extensive study of many toxins has contributed to a greater understanding of their biology and chemistry. Toxins have been utilized as tools to study human biochemistry and physiology in order to pave the way for new pharmaceuticals. In fact, some components are in active development for clinical use. Clinical evaluation of human poisoning is complicated by questionable identification of plant or animal species and the inability to quantify the level of exposure. In this chapter, an overview of specific plant and animal toxins and their effects will precede a short discussion of the considerable effort to harness natural pharmacopeia for clinical use.

Introduction to Plant Toxicities

The plant kingdom contains potentially 300,000 species, ...

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