Ricin vaccine trial begins

The United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases announced on Wednesday that it has begun clinical trials at Fort Detrick in Frederick, Maryland, for a potential vaccine to the significant terrorism threat ricin.

Ricin, which is derived from castor beans, is considered a significant terrorism or biological warfare threat. The USAMRIID said that there are currently no federally approved ricin countermeasures, the Associated Press reports.

In 2004, two civilian scientists at the Army laboratory in Frederick developed a vaccine candidate for ricin that they created using protein engineering and molecular modeling. The candidate has since proven effective in lab animals and is now being tested on 30 human volunteers.

Last year, a British white supremacist pleaded guilty to producing ricin and preparing it for acts of terrorism.

Ricin can be released in the form of a mist, a powder or a pellet or it can be dissolved in water, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The United States experimented with using ricin as a potential warfare agent in the 1940s.

Ricin works by entering into the cells of a person’s body and preventing the cells from making necessary proteins. When the problem spreads throughout the body, death may occur.

Ricin can lead to respiratory failure within 72 hours if it is inhaled.