Scientists have developed an enzyme treatment that could offset the effects of lethal chemicals that kill hundreds of thousands of people globally.
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.
OPs include compounds like Tabun, which was developed in 1936 by German scientists during World War II, Sarin, Soman, Cyclosarin, VX, and VR, the journal Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences reports.
Worldwide about 200,000 people are estimated to die every year from OP poisoning, through occupational exposure, unintentional use and misuse, mostly countries like India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka and through deliberate terror activities.
Using a modified human enzyme, Mike Blackburn, professor of molecular biology at the University of Sheffield, tied-up with Alexander Gabibov, professor at the Shemyakin-Ovchinnikov Institute, Moscow, and Patrick Masson of the Departement de Toxicologie, Centre de Recherches du Service de Sante des Armees, to create a "bio-scavenger".
The bio-scavenger was found to protect mice against the nerve agent VR and showed no lasting effects, according to a Sheffield statement.
In studies performed at the Institute of Bio-organic Chemistry in Pushchino, Russia, a group mice was treated with the new enzyme after being subjected to enough of the VR agent to kill several of the animals - about 63 mg - and all survived.
"This current publication describes a novel method to generate a bio-scavenger for the Russian VR organophosphorus agent with the key property of being long-acting in the bloodstream," said Blackburn.