Finding Countermeasures to Chemical Threats


The “Chemical Threats and Bioterrorism” Poster Sessions presented during the SOT 58th Annual Meeting and ToxExpo demonstrated that authors representing several countries are working toward a single goal of developing medical countermeasures against chemical threat agents.

In session I, the focus was on skin, lung, heart, and eye injuries. Sulfur mustard gas, which causes vesicles/blisters on exposure, was initially used in World War I as a chemical warfare agent and then subsequently used in several other conflicts and wars. Despite its use as a chemical warfare agent, there is no effective antidote. Several posters represented work on skin and lung injuries. Due to unfeasibility and ethical reasons, clinical trials in humans with chemical threat agents are not possible. Therefore, demonstration of therapeutic efficacy of medical countermeasures against chemical threat agents in at least two animal models is generally recommended by the US Food and Drug Administration.

Several of the presenters worked with sulfur mustard analogs in the past, and now they have moved to advanced research with the actual sulfur mustard gas in certified federal laboratories and contract research organizations. A team from the University of Colorado led by Livia Veress, MD, showed that alteplase, a fibrinolytic agent, dramatically improved survival in a 12 hr swine model of sulfur mustard gas–induced lung injury. The team initially demonstrated efficacy in a rodent model and then moved to a larger mammalian model close to humans. By far, alteplase is one of the few candidate treatments that reached advanced testing with promising results to decrease airway cast formation.

Another team from Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, showed skin injury models of sulfur mustard in rodent and swine models with emphasis on histopathology and pro-inflammatory cytokines, and potential therapeutic agents. The team showed the protective role of spleen-derived myeloid cells and type-IV collagenase inhibitor (an MMP9 inhibitor).

A team from the US Army Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defense presented cutting-edge research on sulfur mustard gas–induced ocular injuries, including a high-throughput miRNA library screening to identify potential targets for treatment and studies on understanding tissue regeneration.

Other posters in this session showed other important inhalation threat agents such as bromine and phosphine and skin threat agents such as mechlorethamine.

The poster presentations gave hope that we will see medical countermeasures/antidotes for all the serious chemical threat agents in the very near future.

This blog was prepared by an SOT Reporter. SOT Reporters are SOT members who volunteer to write about sessions and events they attend during the SOT Annual Meeting and ToxExpo. If you are interested in participating in the SOT Reporter program in the future, please email Giuliana Macaluso.

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