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576 MEDICAL JURISPRUDENCE
(ii) Side-view.—The cells are about 160 micro-millimetres long, and
about 9 micro-millimetres wide without any appreciable tapering The cells
show a uniform lumen varying from about 1 to 3 micro-millimetres in
diameter. The cell-walls do not show a ribbed appearance owing to the
absence of fine transverse strise.
Tests.—Physiological.—A watery infusion of abrin or a decoction of the
seeds, if dropped into the eye, causes purulent ophthalmia.
A thin emulsion of the bruised seed in distilled water, when injected
hypodermically into a fowl, produces inflammation and necrosis at the seat
of injection and kills the bird in about twenty-four to thirty-six hours.
The following method is used for extracting abrin from the seeds : —
The kernel left after the removal of the seed envelope is rubbed in a
mortar with 4 per cent sodium chloride solution in which abrin is soluble.
It is allowed to settle when the sodium chloride solution of abrin is separated
out. This process is repeated twice or thrice. The combined extracts are
filtered, and concentrated in vacuo. They are then acidified with acetic acid
and saturated with sodium chloride to precipitate the abrin. The precipitate
is separated and purified by dialysis in a parchment dialyzer for several
days. Lastly, the residual abrin is dried in vacuo over sulphuric acid, when
an amorphous powder is obtained.
Agglutination Test.—If one or two drops of abrin solution made by
dissolving 0.1 g. of the substance in 10 cc. of 4 per cent sodium chloride
solution are added to 2 cc. of defibrinated blood in a small test-tube, the red
blood corpuscles agglutinate into a mass resembling sealing wax.
If a drop of abrin solution mixed with a drop of defibrinated blood is
placed on a microscopic slide, agglutination of the red blood corpuscles will
also be visible under the microscope.
Medico-Legal Points.—The seeds of Abrus precatorius are usually
employed criminally for destroying cattle, and occasionally for homicidal
purposes. The seeds alone, or mixed with dhatura, opium and onion, are
worked with a small quantity of spirits into a paste, which is made into
spikes or "suis ", and then hardened in the sun. These spikes which weigh,
on an average, 1J to 2 grains, are then placed in a wooden handle, and thrust
with great force into the skin of the animal intended to be killed. For
homicidal purposes the spike is kept between two* fingers, and is pushed into
the skin while slapping a person.
The spikes thus prepared are less active than the freshly powdered
seeds. One spike weighing two grains on being rubbed up with water and
injected subcutaneously into a chicken does not usually produce a fatal
result till after the lapse of thirty-six hours; whilst half a grain of the
freshly powdered seed produces death in about eighteen hours.17
Cases of human poisoning by " sui" pricking, though very few, have
occurred especially in the district of Drug, C.P,, and in the districts of
Bareilly, Hlibhit and Shahajahanpur, UP. In his annual report for the year
1908, the Chemical Examiner of the United Provinces mentions the following
case of human "sui" poisoning, which occurred in the district of Drug: —
The deceased was sleeping on a charpoy. Someone came into the room and gave
him a slap on his right cheek. A wound was found in this position, in which were
pieces of the foreign substance. More pieces of the foreign body were found on the
charpoy These pieces were found to be fragments of a " sui" as used in " sui" poisoning
of cattle, and contained ground-up seeds of Abrus precatorius. Death occurred in
aid moyutiT tlurteen hours a*1** ti16 symptoms of inflammation in the chest, eyes, neck
17. Warden and WaddeD, Loc. Cit.; Ind. Med. Gaz.> July 1884, p. 189.