Ricin, a poison found in castor beans, has been found in a package sent to President Donald Trump – the latest example of the natural and deadly toxin being investigated by authorities.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says ricin can be found in a waste product that occurs when processing castor beans into castor oil. It would take "a deliberate act to make ricin and use it to poison people."
No antidote exists for the poison, which can kill a person within 36 to 72 hours of exposure, according to the CDC. It is unlikely to be absorbed through the skin, but it can be deadly when ingested or inhaled.
"Ricin is very toxic. It works by getting inside the cells of a person’s body and preventing the cells from making the proteins they need," according to the CDC. "Without the proteins, cells die. Eventually, this is harmful to the whole body, and may cause death."
Symptoms of ricin poisoning are different, depending on whether the poison is ingested or inhaled, according to the Mayo Clinic. When eaten, organ damage and intestinal bleeding can occur. When breathed in, it causes respiratory problems.
The poison could "potentially be used as a biological weapon," according to the Mayo Clinic.
The poison came to pop culture prominence when it was used in the show "Breaking Bad" in an attempt to kill a major character.
“Ricin is an incredibly dangerous biological toxin – just a few tiny grains can kill a human,” a 2019 release quotes U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna when a California man pleaded guilty to attempting to buy ricin.
“Because it can be used as a weapon of mass destruction and there is no antidote for ricin poisoning, any attempt to acquire this deadly chemical agent is an extremely serious matter that will prompt a vigorous response.”
Ricin has surfaced in other plots targeting Trump and other officials.
In 2018, a federal grand jury returned a seven-count indictment against a Utah man, alleging that he threatened Trump and other administration officials in letters, some of which contained the natural ingredients used to make ricin.
In that case, a series of suspicious letters were addressed to Trump, then-Defense Secretary James Mattis, FBI Director Christopher Wray, CIA Director Gina Haspel and others.
Contributing: Kevin Johnson, USA TODAY; The Associated Press.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: What is ricin? Illegal poison sent to Trump has no antidote