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Friends or foes? Emerging impacts of biological toxins

Clark, Graeme C. and Casewell, Nicholas R. and Elliott, Christopher T. and Harvey, Alan L. and Jamieson, Andrew G. and Strong, Peter N. and Turner, Andrew D. (2019) Friends or foes? Emerging impacts of biological toxins. Trends in Biochemical Sciences, 44 (4). pp. 365-379. ISSN 0968-0004

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Abstract

Toxins are substances produced from biological sources (e.g., animal, plants, microorganisms) that have deleterious effects on a living organism. Despite the obvious health concerns of being exposed to toxins, they are having substantial positive impacts in a number of industrial sectors. Several toxin-derived products are approved for clinical, veterinary, or agrochemical uses. This review sets out the case for toxins as ‘friends’ that are providing the basis of novel medicines, insecticides, and even nucleic acid sequencing technologies. We also discuss emerging toxins (‘foes’) that are becoming increasingly prevalent in a range of contexts through climate change and the globalisation of food supply chains and that ultimately pose a risk to health.