What is Prussic Acid and How Does Poisoning Occur?

What is Prussic Acid and How Does Poisoning Occur?

Warren Rusche

South Dakota State University

Prussic acid, also known as hydrocyanic acid or cyanide, is a rapidly acting, lethal toxin. Prussic acid inhibits oxygen utilization by the animal at the cellular level resulting in suffocation. Ruminants are more susceptible because the rumen microbes have enzymes that release the prussic acid in the digestive tract. Death often occurs within minutes of exposure. Some plants, particularly sorghums and sudangrass, accumulate cyanogenic (prussic acid producing) glucosides in the outer tissue layers of the plant. The enzymes that would trigger the prussic acid production and located in other plant tissues, specifically the leaf.

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