Weekly Web Review: ricin, gila monsters, and Hitler’s food taster

April 27, 2013, 5:19 pm

Caster beans and ricin: At the ToxTalk podcast, Matt Zuckerman, Jen Carey, and Ed Boyer from the University of Massachusetts toxicology program have a level-headed discussion as to whether or not one should panic if an envelope filled with ricin arrives in the mail. I was especially interested to hear about their recent case of a suicidal man who put 30 castor beans through a blender and swallowed the slurry. Tests for urine ricinine were strongly positive. Consistent with TPR‘s long-held belief that the furor about ricin is much ado about (mostly) nothing, the ensuing nausea, vomiting, and abdominal discomfort quickly resolved. Recommended. To listen to the episode, click here.

Calcium Channel Blocker and Beta Blocker Poisoning: At the PEM ED Podcast, Andy Sloas posted a detailed discussion of clinical issues involved in identifying and treating these overdoses. I agree with most of the points he makes, but I’m just not enthusiastic about his recommendation to start whole bowel irrigation (WBI) in beta-blocker overdose. Either the ingestion is not significant — in which case WBI will not provide benefit — or it’s potentially lethal, and one may end up with a hypotensive patient with a belly full of polyethylene glycol. Not a good situation.To listen to the podcast, click here.

Hitler’s Food Taster: The Associated Press has an interview with 95-year-old Margot Woelk, who says she was one of 15 young women who, during World War II, tasted Hitler’s food for poison.

Gila Monster: Slate’s informative piece about the gila monster contains the following interesting tidbits:

  • The diabetes drug Byetta (exenatide) is a synthetic version of exendin-4, a compound found in gila monster salive.
  • The gila monster delivers its venom by biting down on an enemy and chewing . . . and chewing  . . . and chewing.
  • The “gila monster” depicted in the 1959 film “The Giant Gila Monster” is actually a Mexican beaded lizard (Heloderma horridum):

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