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Dieffenbachia Toxicity

Wilbert G. Walter, PhD
JAMA. 1967;201(2):140-141. doi:10.1001/jama.1967.03130020086029.
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To the Editor:—  Several articles and communications have appeared in The Journal concerning poisoning by plants of the genus Dieffenbachia and their probable toxic constituents. Drach and Maloney1 and Dore2 implied that toxicity was due to insoluble and/or soluble oxalates or glycosidal principles. Pohl3,4 suggested a protein as surmised from work by Rizzinni.5 From investigations in our laboratory, I would like to report for the first time the toxic principles of plants of this genus and the mechanism by which we believe they exert their activity. Toxicity is due to both an insoluble oxalate, calcium oxalate raphides (bundles of long slender needles), and to a proteolytic enzyme which we have designated "dumbain." In several species, D exotic and D bausii, an additional third toxic principle was found: a cyanogenetic glycoside which on hydrolysis yields hydrocyanic acid.Dieffenbachia picta, D seguine, and D amoena contain the free


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