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ptomaine pto·maine (tō'mān', tō-mān')
A basic nitrogenous organic compound produced by bacterial putrefaction of protein.
Any of various toxic nitrogenous organic compounds produced by bacterial decomposition of protein, especially in dead animal tissue. Ptomaines are bases and are formed by removing the carboxyl group (COOH) from amino acids. They do not cause food poisoning, as was previously thought, but the term ptomaine poisoning is still used to describe food poisoning caused by bacteria.