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Nature's poisons

There are many chemicals that are produced in plants, animals or insects which prevent neurones from working properly. One example is strychnine which was used as a rat poison and is obtained from seeds of Strychnos nux-vomica. Strychnine interferes with the neurotransmitter glycine, by preventing it from docking at its receptors. Some snake venoms contain poisons that block acetylcholine, causing paralysis by preventing instructions passing from the nerves to the muscles.

Some snakes, such as the Sri Lankan cobra (left), have venom that cause paralysis (right) by blocking the action of neurotransmitters.
Some snakes, such as the Sri Lankan cobra (left), have venom that cause paralysis (right) by blocking the action of neurotransmitters.
D A Warrell, University of Oxford

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