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Main article: Poisons

A toxin (Gk. τοξικόν toxikon "(poison) for use on arrows,") is a poisonous substance produced by living cells or organisms. Toxins are nearly always proteins that are capable of causing disease on contact or absorption with body tissues by interacting with biological macromolecules such as enzymes or cellular receptors. Toxins vary greatly in their severity, ranging from usually minor and acute (as in a bee sting) to almost immediately deadly (as in botulinum toxin).

Biotoxins vary greatly in purpose and mechanism, and can be highly complex (the venom of the cone snail contains dozens of small proteins, each targeting a specific nerve channel or receptor), or relatively small protein.

Use

Biotoxins in nature have two primary functions:

Some of the more well known types of biotoxins include:

Non-technical usage

When used non-technically, the term "toxin" is often applied to any toxic substances. Toxic substances not of biological origin are more properly termed poisons. Many non-technical and lifestyle journalists also follow this usage to refer to toxic substances in general, though some specialist journalists at publishers such as BBC and The Guardian maintain the distinction that toxins are only those produced by living organisms.

In the context of complementary medicine the term is often used as a broader category of any harmful substance claimed to cause ill health, though mainstream scientists often argue that the nature of such substances is unproven.

See also

External links

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