Selective effectors of death

One of the most known toxic alkaloid is strychnine. Vanderkop467 and Sterner et al.468 are examples of those who have studied its toxicity, although it is practically rather evident. This alkaloid has been used as a strong rodenticide225. It is also known for being dangerous to humans. One general characteristic of strychnine is its chemical stability. This is some kind of exception in the alkaloids, which are generally flexible heterogeneous compounds. In cases of poisoning this alkaloid can be detected in exhumed bodies even many years after death. However, in the case of strychnine some selectivity has been observed. The study of Sterner et al.468 is interesting in the sense that there is clear evidence of the selectivity of strychnine sub-chronic dietary toxicity being species dependent. Sterner et al.468 studied the sub-chronic toxicity of strychnine on the northern bobwhite quail (Collinus virginianus) and the mallard duck (Anas platyrhynchos). The authors evidenced that strychnine toxicity was much lower in C. virginianus than in A. platyrhynchos. Others have also investigated strychnine. The research of Altememi et al.469 deserves mentioning when considering the species selectivity of strychnine. This study has evidenced that the addition of two acetylenic triazole derivatives has increased the potentiation of strychnine toxicity and lethality in mice. Strychnine may also cause convulsions and disorders of the CNS. This is a result of the strychnine activity mechanism. It is known that the strychnine binds to a receptor site in the spinal cord that normally binds with glycine. Some selectivity of strychnine to different species can be considered as a new point of view to the consideration of alkaloid tox-icity in general. Some of the selectivity is also possibly present in other very toxic alkaloids. This means that the poisonous nature of alkaloids as immediate death effectors may not hold true for all species and individuals. Therefore, the exotic and coloured legends of the use of alkaloids for acute effects of death (murders, executions, weapons etc.) presented by some scientific books need to be critically checked in the light of present research data. The lethal dose (LD50) should be explained very carefully and critically. Alkaloid toxicity is not absolute; it is dependent on species, individuals, presence of other chemicals and on its own concentration.

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