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Full text of "Medical Jurisprudence And Toxicology"

ABRTJS  PRECATOBIUS                                                   575

Symptoms.—In a few hours after an extract of the seeds is injected under
the skin of an animal, inflammation,1 oedema and possibly necrosis surround-
ing the site of the injection occur. The animal is disinclined to take food,
and three or four days later it drops down and is unable to move. It then
gets tetanic convulsions, or becomes cold, drowsy and comatose, and dies in
twenty-four to forty-eight hours.

The symptoms are very much like those of snake-poisoning. Hence the
peasants think that the animal died from the effects of a snake-bite.

In human poisoning a painful swelling with ecchymosis occurs near the
seat of injection which becomes painful. The swelling rapidly increases and
inflammation and necrosis supervene. The patient suffers from farntness,
vertigo, vomiting, dyspnoea and general prostration with cold, clammy skin,
and small, frequent, irregular pulse. Convulsions may precede death which
occurs from cardiac paralysis within three to five days.

In a case14 of attempted suicide where the powdered seeds of Abrus
precatorius were taken with groundnut oil, the symptoms were vomiting,
feeble pulse, cold, clammy skin, and sunken eyes with normal pupils. No
deep sleep, no tingling of the skin or throat, no convulsions or twitchings or
no delirium was noticed.

Fatal Dose.—One-and-a-half to two grains. Half a grain of the powdered
seeds rubbed up with ten minims of distilled water and injected sub-
cutaneously into cats killed them in 19i to 40 hours.15

Doses16 of about 0.0005 mg. to 0.001 mg. of abrin per kilogramme of
body weight injected subcutaneously are said to be poisonous.

Fatal Period.—The average fatal period is 3 to 5 days. The shortest is
24 hours.

Treatment.—Anti-abrin can be produced by repeated, small and gradually
increasing doses which can be used curatively in abrus poisoning. It is
possible for recovery to occur, if the sui is dissected out soon after it is
inserted. In his annual report for the year 1939, the Chemical Examiner,
Bengal, mentions a case in which a brownish powder was injected by a
cTiamar into the upper part of the jaw of a buffalo, and as a result of this the
jaw and the mouth of the buffalo became inflamed and swollen accompanied
with shivering. The mischief was detected early, and the powder was
dissected out from the site, when the buffalo made an uninterrupted
recovery. On analysis, the powder was found to contain Abrus precatorius.

Post-mortem Appearances.—Fragments of a " sui " containing ground-up
seeds of Abrus precatorius are usually found in the wound, which may some-
times be so small as not to be easily observed. CEdema is found at the seat
of injection and patches of ecchymoses like purpura are seen under the skin,
pleura, pericardium, and peritoneum. The mucous membrane of the stomach
and intestines is highly congested with numerous haemorrhagic patches on
its surface as well as in the interior of the organs, such as the lungs, liver
and spleen,

Identification of Abrus precatorius seeds.—When examined under the
microscope, the prismatic cells in the outer coats of the seeds show the
following characteristic features: —

(i) Cross-section at the top.—The cells are polygonal in shape, and are
about 9 micro-millnnetres in diameter. The lumen is slit-like with radiat-
ing creases.

14.    Madras Chemical Examiner's Annual Report, 1924.

15.    Warden and Waddell, Loc. Cit.; Ind. Med. Gaz., June 1884, pp. 155, 156.

16.    Chopra, Indigenous Drugs of India, 1933, p. 263.