A two-year-old toddler nearly died after swallowing the beads from a necklace she got while on a cruise. The necklace, which she picked up from a local vendor in Montego Bay, Jamaica, is commonly known as a Crab’s Eye necklace. Other common names for the beads on the necklace include Jequirity, Rosary Pea, John Crow Bead, Precatory bean, Indian Licorice, Akar Saga, Giddee Giddee or Jumbie Bead. While it was visually appealing, the necklace contained a substance that lead to problem upon ingestion: abrin.
Abrin, also known as agluttinin or toxalbumin, is extremely dangerous if ingested, and usually shows similar symptoms of another deadly toxin, ricin. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Crab’s Eye is first noticeable by a burning pain in the stomach, then leads to blood in stool, urine and vomit and, eventually, causes organs to shutdown and blood vessels to collapse. Following such problems, the body goes into shock and subsequent death. Even small amounts of the poisonous plant protein can be fatal. Most commonly, it appears in a white or yellow powder form.
Samantha Gandy and her daughter, Audrey, are both U.S. residents, and began noticing signs of the poisoning while aboard the Carnival cruise ship in the Caribbean. Aubrey woke up one morning with an extremely high fever and uncontrollable drooling. When they approached the medical staff on the ship, the Carnival Dream’s staff assured them it was only a virus. But the following day, the ship made port in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Samantha rushed her daughter to the local hospital. The doctors at the hospital immediately recognized the signs as abrin poisoning and treated Audrey accordingly. Samantha was scared throughout the ordeal:
“We took a couple days off of work and it ended up being the scariest time of my life,” Gandy posted to Facebook.
Poisonings with Crab’s Eye are nothing new. In fact, the seeds from the plant are commonly used in jewelry. Sometimes referred to as prayer beads, they’ve been in necklaces, bracelets and other pieces of jewelry for quite some time. As recently as last summer, thousands of bracelets were recalled in Cornwall, England, after the beads were found to be highly toxic.
Officials from the Carnival Cruise line have yet to be reached for comment on the matter.