Chemical and Biological Agents of War: Concept, Cause, Care

By Sammarco, Domenic A | Drug Topics, January 21, 2002 | Go to article overview

Chemical and Biological Agents of War: Concept, Cause, Care


Sammarco, Domenic A, Drug Topics


Use of chemical and biological weapons for terrorism became a key concern of the U.S. Army in the 1990s. In 1994, a Japanese religious cult, Aum Shinrikyo, reportedly released a nerve agent in a residential area of Japan, killing seven and injuring 500. A second attack in 1995 spread Sarin through a crowded Tokyo subway. This attack killed 12 and necessitated medical attention for 5,500 civilians.

Chemical and biological terrorism was not limited to foreign countries. The first conviction under the Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act of 1989 occurred in 1995 when a U.S. citizen was sentenced to 33 months in prison for possession of 0.7 gm of ricin toxin (Ricinus communis), a highly potent and easily produced plant toxin. The same year, a nonprofit organization shipped plague bacteria, Yersinia pesos, to an alleged white supremacist group.

Highly toxic industrial chemicals also pose a potential risk to our community. The disaster in Bhopal, India, in 1984, when an estimated 8,000 persons died and another 30,000 were injured from breathing methylisocyanate and chlorine vapors released in an industrial accident, is but one example of the devastating effects of poisonous gases.

In 1996, the U.S. Congress passed a new antiterrorism training bill to prepare the United States for future chemical and biological terrorism incidents. As health professionals, pharmacists have an obligation to become knowledgeable in this area.

Chemical terrorism- Cheap, easy, devastating

The growth of the chemical and pharmaceutical industries has inadvertently given terrorist groups access to chemicals. Compounds contaning such chemicals as chlorine, phosgene, and cyanide are commonplace, and theft of such materials has been reported. Chemical agents of war or terrorism are classified by the nature of their use, their persistency in the field, and their physiological action. Toxic chemical agents are capable of producing incapacitation, serious injury, and death.

The neurotransmitters used in the human body are: acetylcholine (Ach), adrenaline (norepinephrine), gammaminobutyric acid (GABA), and dopamine (DM). Acetylcholine is the neurotransmitter to skeletal muscle. Excess Ach, a condition caused by nerve agents, causes stimulation of the muscles and other structures innervated by these fibers.

Nerve agents such as tabun (GA), satin (GB), roman (GD), and VX inhibit acetylcholinesterase (AchE) enzyme throughout the body, notably in the nervous system. This causes hyperactivation of cholinergic pathways, causing convulsive seizures and respiratory failure. The blockage of a normal biochemical reaction stops the hydrolysis of Ach. This classic explanation of nerve agent poisoning holds that the intoxicating effects are due to the excess endogenous Ach. A common analogy would be an electrical motor that has short-circuited or changed polarity.

These nerve agents are classified as organophosphorus compounds. The agents in the "G" series were given that code letter because they originated in Germany. The chemical agent VX (the "V" stands for venomous) was discovered in England in the 1950s and possesses low volatility, allowing for safer handling.

The carbamates comprise another cholinesterase-inhibiting class. These, unlike the organophosphorus class, have some beneficial medical applications. Among the carbamates is physostigmine, which has been used in medicine for more than a century. Neostigmine (Prostigmin), developed in the early 1930s, and pyridostigmine bromide (Mestonin) have been used for decades for the management of myasthenia gravis. This class of cholinesterase inhibitors has been used as a pretreatment or antidote-enhancing substance against certain nerve agents.

Pyridostigmine bromide is known as PB or NAPP (nerve agent pyridostigmine pretreatment). Since both of these classes of AchE inhibitors attach to the esteratic site on AchE, a second binding compound cannot attach to that site if it is already occupied by a molecule. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Chemical and Biological Agents of War: Concept, Cause, Care
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.