Difference between poison and toxin, a basic question in toxicology. In the same vein, poison, toxin, and venom are very dangerous chemical compounds for the human, animal, other living cells or microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi, viruses, and protozoa. The word “poison” derived from the Latin “Potare” meaning “to drink” . On the other hand, the word “toxin” derived from the Greek “Toxikon” meaning “(poison) for use on arrows”. Ludwig Brieger an organic chemist has first used this term . After poisoning, probably your body shows signs and symptoms. Do you know what the difference between signs and symptoms are?
Poison vs Toxin
Table of contents
- Linked between poison and toxin
- Nature of origin
- Example of Poison and Toxin
- Finally, summary of the difference between poison and toxin
Definition of Poison and Toxin
Poison is either a natural or synthetic chemical compound which able to produce a noxious, morbid or fatal effect on living cells or body when adequate amounts are taken or given. For example Brodifacoum, Arsenic, Mercury, and Nicotine, etc. Remember that all used drugs are poison depending on their dose. Poisons are both harmful and useful to a human.
While a toxin is one kind of poison which formed within living cells or microorganisms and causes injuries or hamper the normal biological functions in other living cells or microorganisms. For example Botulinum toxin A and B, Tetrodotoxin (TTX), Batrachotoxin, and Amatoxin, etc.
In other words, Toxins are poisonous chemical compounds of biologic origin, which means synthesized by animals, plants as well as organisms . Another key point is these may be peptides or protein or poisonous molecules of biologic origin.
First of all, the classification of poisons
Firstly, based on origin, poisons are two types:
- Natural poison
- Synthetic poison
Secondly, based on physical form, poisons are 3 types:
Thirdly, based on chemical nature, poisons are two types:
- Organic or Metallo-organic poison
- Inorganic poison
Classification of Toxins
Firstly, based on the nature of origin, toxin are two types:
Secondly, based on activity, toxins are 3 types:
- Act on the cell membrane: Type I
- Attack the cell membrane: Type II
- Penetrate the cell membrane to act inside the cell: Type III
Thirdly, based on the source of origin, toxins are 3 types:
Also, based on the specificity, toxins are 2 types:
- Host-specific / Host selective toxins
- Non-host specific / Non-selective toxins
Link between poison and toxin
All toxins are poisons while all poisons are not toxins. For example, Batrachotoxin from dart frogs is a toxin and also a poison. On the other hand, Arsenic (chemical element) is a poison but not toxin because toxic must be a biologic origin.
Nature of origin
Poisons are either biological or chemical substances while toxins are only biologic origin chemical substances.
Poisons are both harmful and useful to a human. For example various pesticides, herbicides, and insecticides. While toxins are very harmful to humans but they are beneficial for originator animal, plant or living cell or microorganism. For example Maitotoxin from Shellfish, Picrotoxin from Fish berries, Cyanotoxins from Cyanobacteria and Apitoxin from honey bees.
Certainly, poisons are more available than toxins. Must be remembered that poison may be attained from various synthetic or natural sources such as minerals like arsenic, lead, aluminum, and mercury and gases like carbon monoxide. While toxins exist naturally in all living cells or organisms for their predation or defense in lesser amount compares to poisons.
Uses of Poison and Toxin
Poisons are used as pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, rodenticides as well as drugs at optimum doses such as ranitidine, lesinurad, and oseltamivir, etc. You may read drug vs medicine.
On the other hand, naturally, toxins are used for predation and/or chemical defenses by animals, plants, and microorganisms such as fungi and bacteria. For example, Tetrodotoxin or TTX is used as a chemical defense of pufferfish, flatworms, octopuses, and sea stars. But toxic also used as a drug at very little dose such as cholera toxin B subunit used as an anti-inflammatory drug , Botulinum toxin are used in migraine, headache, overactive bladder, neuralgia, and spasticity.
Unfortunately, human has used both poison and toxin for murdering, executing other humans.
Example of Poison and Toxin
Example of poison includes Sarin, Brodifacoum, Polonium, Arsenic, Mercury, Nicotine, all drugs at overdose as well as all toxin. Whereas the example of Toxin includes:
|Name of Toxins||Origin|
|Botulinum toxin A and B||Clostridium botulinum (Bacterium)|
|Tetrodotoxin or TTX||Pufferfish, octopuses, flatworms, sea stars, angelfish, and toads|
|Amatoxin||Amanita muscaria (Fungus)|
|Cyanide||Apples, cherries, and apricots|
|Strychnine||Strychnos nux-vomica seed|
|Cardiotoxin III||Chinese cobra|
|Cholera toxin||Vibrio cholerae (Bacterium)|
Difference between poison and toxin in brief:
|Definition||Poison is either a natural or synthetic chemical compound which able to produce a noxious, morbid or fatal effect on living cells or body when adequate amounts are taken or given.||A toxin is one kind of poison which formed within living cells or microorganisms and causes injuries or hamper the normal biological functions in other living cells or microorganisms.|
|Classification||Based on origin, poisons are two types:
Based on physical form, poisons are 3 types:
Based on chemical nature, poisons are 2 types:
|Based on the nature of origin, toxin are two types:
Based on the source of origin, toxin are 3 types
Based on the specificity, toxin are 2 types
|Link between||All poisons are not toxins.||All toxins are poisons.|
|Nature of origin||Either biological or chemical substances.||Only biologic origin.|
|Harmfulness||Both harmful and useful to a human.||Generally, very harmful to humans but they are beneficial for originator animal, plant or living cell or microorganism.|
|Availability||More available than toxins.||Lesser amount compares to poison.|
|Uses||As pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, rodenticides as well as drugs at optimum dose.||For predation and/or chemical defenses.|
|Examples||Sarin, Brodifacoum, Polonium, Arsenic, Mercury, Nicotine, all drugs at overdose as well as all toxins.||Ricin, Botulinum toxin A and B, Tetrodotoxin or TTX, Batrachotoxin, Amatoxin, Cyanide, Strychnine, Maitotoxin, Picrotoxin, Cyanotoxins, Apitoxin, Dinotoxins, Cardiotoxin III, and Cholera toxin, etc.|
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What is Venom?
Venom is a poisonous liquid which synthesized within animal like some snakes, insects, etc. and insert into another animal’s body by stinging or biting from their originator animal. Truly, a venom is one kind of toxin. But the difference between venom and toxin is in the delivery method. Remember that, you need to get in touch with poison and if you take it and it produces a noxious or morbid or fatal effect, it is a toxin; if an animal bites you and which produces a noxious or morbid or fatal effect, it is venom.
- Poison, Online Etymology Dictionary. https://www.etymonline.com/word/poison. Retrieved 25 January 2020.
- Brade, Helmut (1999). Endotoxin in Health and Disease. CRC Press.
- Katzung, B., & Trevor, A. J. (2015). Basic and clinical pharmacology. New York: Mcgraw-Hill.
- Royal, J. M., & Matoba, N. (2017). Therapeutic Potential of Cholera Toxin B Subunit for the Treatment of Inflammatory Diseases of the Mucosa. Toxins, 9(12), 379. doi:10.3390/toxins9120379
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