Toxins, poisons and toxicants of biological and chemical origin, action in the body, symptoms and natural antidotes. - HHM

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Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Toxins, poisons and toxicants of biological and chemical origin, action in the body, symptoms and natural antidotes.

    Toxins, poisons and toxicants
    The word toxins, poison may be scary to you. What makes it sound the way they are pronounced? Toxic substances or toxicants include all biological or chemical contaminants that confer deleterious or hazardous effect on living organism on ingestion or interaction with tissues. A toxin is substitutable with poison while poisons are considered a group of toxins. They include all foreign compounds to the body (xenobiotic). It can be a gas, liquid and solid from inorganic sources (chemicals) or biological sources (plants or animal toxins).

    Before poison or a toxin is able to cause damage to the body or death then it must have been in a concentration or doses that the body cannot tolerate or suppress. Individual’s genetic makeup, sex of victim, nutritional status of the victim, route of poison entrance into the body, age of victim and the time of poisoning are some factors that influence the damage a poison will cause in an individual.

    Some plants capable of causing health threats

    Some plant species that have been reported to contain compounds that are hazardous to health include bitter almond, cassava, sorghum (guinea corn), lima beans, fava beans, mushroom, vetch peas, chick peas, kidney beans etc. These plants are said to contain glycoproteins that bind to components of tissues or biomolecules. For example they can bind to carbohydrates which are components of cell wall of red blood cells thereby agglutinating red blood cell. Some cause abdominal discomfort or impair absorption of certain nutrients on ingestion.

    Some chemicals capable of causing health threats

    Some of the compounds present in industrial or household products can affect normal function of the body if it enters or spills on the body. Some of these compounds include bases, acids, anilines, atropines, hydrogen cyanide, heavy metals, plastics, carbon monoxides, agrochemicals and biocides (herbicides, pesticides, insecticides etc.), alcohols, glycosides, carbon monoxides, opiates, metallic compounds.

     Symptoms of poisoning and intoxication

    Symptoms of poisoning or intoxication may show up immediately after poisoning or a times later in the future (up to 10 years) depending on some of the factors that we provided above as determinants of how poison act in the body. These symptoms will differ among individuals depending on the genetic makeup and the variability in body’s tolerance but below are general symptoms expected immediately after poisoning or later in the future.
    • ·        Skin (lip) burns
    • ·        Pupil of eye dilated or contracted
    • ·        Unexpected diarrhea
    • ·        Vomiting
    • ·        Order of peach
    • ·        Irregular heart beats
    • ·        Convulsion
    • ·        Mental confusion
    • ·        Muscular paralysis
    • ·        Respiratory distress
    • ·        Renal failure
    • ·        Fatigue
    • ·        Shortness of breath
    • ·        Nausea
    • ·        Abdominal pains and stomach upset
    • ·        Weakness
    • ·        Unconsciousness
    • ·        Jaundice

    Mode of action or mechanism of action of poisons or toxins

    Some substances which originally were not poisons may become poisons after metabolism, which is after the body’s enzyme might have acted on it to produce its product. Though the body has ways of suppressing actions of poisons, some poisons may over power the body’s mechanism or prove stubborn depending on how they act when inside the body. Presented below are some of the mechanisms employed by various poisons.

       Most poisons cause damage to the body by reacting with major enzymes that are involved in crucial pathways of life. For example cyanogenic glycosides present in cassava and other plants exert its effect by binding to cytochrome oxidase (Fe3+) enzyme present in the mitochondrial electron transport chain leading to disruption of respirator system at the cellular level of organization.

      Damage resulting from accumulation of poisons in body tissues thereby affecting performance of such tissue. For example lead (Pb) poisoning result in accumulation of lead in bone marrow. Its toxic effect manifest in skin and other soft tissues (mouth, nose etc.) as lesion.

    Direct effect on tissues or organs. Here some poisons like alcohol and other drugs react directly with tissues by producing reactive oxygen species or free radicals which binds to components of tissues and destroy them or make them depress in function. Others like strong acid and bases react directly with tissues leading to damages because they are highly reactive (corrosive).

    By depleting, inhibiting, sequestering or antagonizing important molecules in the body. Some poisons exert their deleterious effect by reducing the availability of important molecules or by analogously inhibiting its uptake from the point of synthesis making it not bioavailable. For example Calabar beans, eggplant, tomato, wild potato all contain compounds (in their raw form) that is capable of inhibiting the enzyme Acetyl cholinesterase which is the enzyme vested with a major role in nerve impulse transmission. Their actions affect the central nervous system as a whole and results in seizure.

    Some of the poisonous compounds can cause damage when they are incorporated into important molecules. They cause mutations in the information molecules (DNA) resulting in uncontrolled cell growth or malfunctioned new growth (tumor). For example afflatoxin (derived from fermented groundnut) and drugs like diethylstilbestrol (DES) has been reported to cause cancer due to their ability in triggering tumor growth.