New treatment could combat deadly chemical agents news
23 January 2013

An enzyme treatment which could neutralise the effects of lethal chemicals responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people across the world has been developed by experts at the University of Sheffield.

Organophosphorus agents (OP) are used as pesticides in developing countries and acute poisoning is common because of insufficient control, poor storage, ready availability, and inadequate education amongst farmers.

It is estimated about 200,000 people die each year across the world from OP poisoning, through occupational exposure, unintentional use and misuse, mostly in developing countries like India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka and through deliberate terrorist activities.

OPs include compounds like Tabun, which was developed in 1936 by German scientists during World War II, Sarin, Soman, Cyclosarin, VX, and VR.

Using a modified human enzyme, scientist Professor Mike Blackburn from the University of Sheffield's department of molecular biology and biotechnology collaborated in a consultancy role with Professor Alexander Gabibov of the Shemyakin-Ovchinnikov Institute, Moscow, and Professor Patrick Masson of the Département de Toxicologie, Centre de Recherches du Service de Santé des Armées, to create a ''bioscavenger'' which was found to protect mice against the nerve agent VR and showed no lasting effects.

In studies performed at the Institute of Bioorganic Chemistry in Pushchino, Russia, a total of eight mice were treated with the new enzyme after being subjected to enough of the VR agent to kill several of the animals – about 63 mg per kg – and all survived.





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New treatment could combat deadly chemical agents