Illinois Institute of Technology
Ricin and abrin are potent plant toxins found in seeds of the castor bean plant and rosary pea plant, respectively. Both toxins have potential for being used as biological weapons since they are relatively easy to isolate and purify and can be disseminated as food contaminants. In the case of a deliberate contamination event with ricin or abrin in a food processing facility, remediation of the foodcontact surfaces must be done safely and effectively. Little information has been published on chemical treatments that could be used to inactivate protein toxins such as ricin and abrin on food-contact surfaces especially in the presence of food residues. The objectives of this project are to 1) identify cleaning/sanitizing treatments that result in inactivation of protein toxins (abrin and ricin) on food-contact surfaces in the absence and presence of different classes of food matrices (high fat, high protein, high starch), 2) identify surrogate(s) that can be used to study chemical inactivation of abrin or ricin, and 3) compare ELISA detection to cytotoxicity assay and an activity-based assay for measuring loss of ricin/abrin activity in the presence of cleaning/sanitizing solutions. The results of this project will provide guidance for effective inactivation of ricin and abrin in the presence of presence of different classes of foods. Another important outcome of this work will be identification of surrogate(s) that could be used to validate inactivation procedures in a food production facility. This project will determine if rapid methods (ELISA and activity-based assay) can be used to estimate the biological activity of treated ricin and abrin. Overall, this project will enhance food defense by enhancing our abilities to recover from an intentional contamination event with protein toxins such as ricin and abrin.