Ricin is a highly toxic, bi-chain polypeptide which can be extracted from the castor bean, Ricinus communis.
Toxicity may arise from ingestion of either the seed itself or through ingestion, inhalation or injection of the extracted protein. Being non-volatile, an aerosolised preparation of the protein has high potential for use in chemical warfare.
There are few available case reports of ricin exposure in human pregnancy, therefore it is not currently possible to assess the risk exposure poses to a developing fetus. Following ricin exposure in a pregnant patient, maternal toxicity is likely to be a major determinant of risk to the fetus.
There are no guidelines regarding the treatment of ricin poisoning during pregnancy. Owing to the severity of complications associated with ricin exposure, treatment of the pregnant patient should be the same as for the non-pregnant patient.
Where exposure to ricin has occurred, even in cases which did not result in maternal toxicity, enhanced fetal monitoring may be warranted. Discussion with UKTIS is recommended.
This is a summary of the full UKTIS monograph for health care professionals and should not be used in isolation. The full UKTIS monograph and access to any hyperlinked related documents is available to NHS health care professionals who are logged in.
If you have a patient with exposure to a drug or chemical and require assistance in making a patient-specific risk assessment, please telephone UKTIS on 0344 892 0909 to discuss the case with a teratology specialist.
If you would like to report a pregnancy to UKTIS please click here to download our pregnancy reporting form. Please encourage all women to complete an online reporting form.