Wednesday, March 14, 2018

The Novichok compounds

Though American laboratories stopped producing nerve agents around 1970, after the production of so-called third-generation nerve agents like sarin and VX, Soviet scientists continued their work for two decades, producing a “fourth generation.” 
The Novichok nerve agents came in solid form, like a powder or thick paste, and would not register on the chemical detector paper that NATO troops used. 
A chemist who worked in the laboratory developing Novichok accidentally inhaled fumes while filling a syringe, and collapsed. Though he was injected with an antidote and eventually awoke, he suffered from depression and epilepsy and died five years later, leaving Vil Mirzayanov, a scientist who helped develop the agent, deeply disillusioned. 
“Antidotes exist, but what does antidote mean?” Mr. Mirzayanov, who had leaked the project to the press and later immigrated to the United States, told Sky News on Tuesday. “You’re saving a person who has been exposed to this gas — but temporarily, not to die this time. But he will be an invalid for the rest of his life.”
..."eventually." Yikes!  

8 comments:

  1. but even good old nazi Tabun that US army tested on unwitting "volunteers" in sublethal doses produced profound depressions in the human guinea pigs, lasting many months. The soldiers who volunteered themselves for this research were told that they were testing new medicines, and it is perfectly innocuous...

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  2. Putin is to Stalin as Beria is to ?

    http://www.nytimes.com/2003/03/05/world/new-study-supports-idea-stalin-was-poisoned.html

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  3. The people gassed in Iraq (likely by nerve agents) also had health problems afterwards (I think) so this shouldn't be surprising. Given the quotes from this Twitter comment, the Novichok sequelae seem significantly worse than usual.

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    1. The Gulf War syndrome probably comes from pyridostigmine and other preventive agents that US military gave the soldiers to protect them from a nerve agent attack

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    2. No - I meant the people gassed with nerve agents in Kurdistan - (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halabja_chemical_attack and https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2002/03/25/the-great-terror).

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  4. Organophosphate poisoning, even with common OP pesticides, is known to cause long term morbidity. Depression, mood changes, memory troubles, difficulty concentrating, sleep disturbances (vivid dreams, nightmares, insomnia) are known psychological effects, but they are somewhat reversibile. There's also organophosphate induced delayed neuropathy (OPIDN), which can lead to quadriplegia. Administration of antidote does not affect this progression. I heard an anecdote about a guy who survived parathion poisoning, but eventually took his own life because he simply could not function normally anymore.

    Reminds me of the old Kruschev quote about nuclear war, "Would the living envy the dead?"

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    1. If I recall correctly, the antidote strategies all target acetylcholinesterase, which is responsible for the acute actions of all OPs. However, a significant fraction of OPs also hit an enzyme called neuropathy target esterase, which appears to be responsible for at least some of the delayed actions.

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  5. A lot of this is recounted in David Wise's "Cassidy's Run: The Secret Spy War Over Nerve Gas".

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