Matter & Energy


Matter is composed of atoms or groups of atoms called molecules. The arrangement of particles in a material depends on the physical state of the substance. In a solid, particles form a compact structure that resists flow. Particles in a liquid have more energy than those in a solid. They can flow past one another, but they remain close. Particles in a gas have the most energy. They move rapidly and are separated from one another by relatively large distances.

Toxin

Toxin, poisonous substance produced by the metabolic activities of certain living organisms, including bacteria, insects, plants, and reptiles.

Some bacteria secrete toxins in tissues that they colonize; these are true toxins. Other bacteria retain most of the poisonous material within themselves, and the toxins are liberated only when the bacteria become disintegrated by chemical, physical, or mechanical means. In addition to bacterial toxins, the characteristic poisons and venoms produced by various plants are called phytotoxins, and those produced by animals are called zootoxins. The more important true toxins causing infection in humans are those of botulism, dysentery, tetanus, and diphtheria. Because of their extreme susceptibility to various chemical and physical influences, such as light, heat, and age, toxins are difficult to isolate, and knowledge of toxins has been gained through the lesions and symptoms that they produce when injected into animals.

Although all toxins are poisonous, in order to become effective they must chemically combine with the animal cells. With the exception of botulin, they are destroyed by the gastrointestinal juices. Although the exact chemical nature of toxins is unknown, they are generally thought to be toxalbumins, substances closely allied to proteins. It has also been abundantly demonstrated that toxins are colloid in nature and bear a close resemblance to enzymes. Toxins are absolutely specific synthetic products, unlike ptomaines, which are cleavage products from the medium on which the bacteria grow. In certain forms, toxins can give rise to antibodies, natural defensive substances produced in the body. Toxoids are toxins that are treated to destroy their toxicity but that remain potent enough to create antibodies when injected into the body.