Can a cup of tea deactivate ricin?

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New research reveals tea's efficacy against the deadly protein.

William Gladstone, former and most historically recurring British Prime Minister, once proclaimed: “If you are cold, tea will warm you. If you are too heated, it will cool you. If you are depressed, it will cheer you. If you are excited, it will calm you. And, if you are unlucky enough to find yourself in the middle of an apocalyptic ricin attack, it will protect you.”

Actually, I’m lying, he didnt say that at all. He did say it will warm you, cool you, cheer you and calm you, but to his credit the world’s knowledge of tea’s future, anti-terror properties during the late nineteenth century was limited.

Gladstone’s last days as British Prime Minister came about in 1894, two decades after the dissolution of the East India Company (whose members knew a thing or two about tea), and he was succeeded by Benjamin Disreali, 1st Earl Beaconsfield, who also knew a thing or two about tea. He even initiated the lowering the tax on tea in his 1852 budget, and who knew taxes could go down as well as up?

Decades later, this great British love-affair with tea has been taken to new heights since the discovery of tea’s ability to deactivate ricin, the naturally-occuring and deady protein commonly assiociated with bio-weaponry and terrorism. Epigallocatechin Gallate is the chemical compenent in tea that is principally responsible for its ability to do this. Scientists at Cardiff University’s School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Studies are the team behind this research.

Tea has already demonstrated an ability to counteract anthrax, the acute disease caused by the bacterium Bacillus anthracis. This new research on tea’s efficacy against ricin contamination may herald new civil and military biological countermeasures.

Professor Les Baillie, of Cardiff University, pointed out in the Daily Mail that tea’s ability to counteract anthrax depends on it being comsumed without milk. “Our new findings” he said, “suggest that if the security services want to counter the threat of Ricin, they may find the answer in their morning cup of tea [...] These toxins, such as ricin, have been shown to have been used by nasty people, and nasty countries, to do nasty things. With a number of overseas guests arriving in the UK for the Olympics, we think this research could encourage them to drink tea - our national drink - but also naturally encourage their resistance to potentially damaging toxins.”

Tags: Security, Threat, Chemical, Military, Biological

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