Take the 2-minute tour ×
Biology Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for biology researchers, academics, and students. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Let's assume for a minute that microbes themselves and their direct toxic products (i.e. endotoxins) aren't toxic to humans. Let's also discount any innate immune responses the body mounts against the invading microbe (i.e. inflammation and production of cytokines).

What happens to food molecules (mechanistically) as it spoils and what deleterious effects do these "spoil products" have on the body if ingested? I'm looking for compounds that can result from the spontaneous breakdown of food or the byproducts of microbial metabolism (that is NOT a "direct" toxin) that is harmful to the body.

For example, do the proteins in food break down into some toxic nitrogenous substance?

share|improve this question
    
It is mostly oxydation as far as I know. –  nico Feb 24 '12 at 7:46

1 Answer 1

up vote 10 down vote accepted

During putrefaction of animal tissue, lysine is decarboxylated into cadaverine and arginine is decarboxylated into putrescine. These compounds are deemed to be toxic.

A serving of meat contains 8 g of protein, corresponding to 640 mg lysine and a little bit less of arginine. Let's go straight and say that a spoiled meat serving contains 640 mg cadaverine and a little bit less of putrescine.

In rats, the acute oral toxicity for both polyamines is around 2000 mg/kg, let'assume that this is valid for humans also. According to these rough calculations, to have an acute toxic effect, a 70kg man that is resistant to the direct toxic effects of microbes, should eat 140 grams of cadaverine, corresponding to 218 smelly rotten meat servings.

[composition and toxicity data taken from wikipedia]

share|improve this answer
1  
Cadaverine...hah. what a clever name. –  jp89 Feb 24 '12 at 23:20
    
Cadaverine and putrescine are legendarily foul-smelling. I do not think I could keep down 140 grams of pure cadaverine. That's like an orange, made entirely out of the solified scent of death. –  Jeremy Kemball Jul 31 '13 at 20:05

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.