Global Challenges/Chemistry Solutions

Promoting Personal Safety & National Security: Toward a better cyanide antidote for terrorist attacks and other mass casualty events

March 11, 2013

Cyanide poisoning
Scientists have discovered a
substance that could be used
to create a better antidote for
cyanide poisoning by terrorists.

Credit: Huntstock/Thinkstock

Summary

In an advance toward closing a major gap in defenses
against terrorist attacks and other mass casualty
events, scientists are reporting discovery of a
promising substance that could be the basis for
development of a better antidote for cyanide
poisoning. Their report, which describes a potential
antidote that could be self-administered, much like
the medication delivered by allergy injection pens,
appears in ACS' Journal of Medicinal Chemistry.

Today’s solution is a promising substance that could be the basis for the development of a better antidote for cyanide poisoning. This is an advance toward closing a major gap in defenses against terrorist attacks and other mass casualty events. The report, which describes a potential antidote that could be self-administered — much like the medication delivered by allergy injection pens — appears in ACS' Journal of Medicinal Chemistry.

Steven E. Patterson, Ph.D., is at the University of Minnesota Center for Drug Design, and he led the study. He explains that the only existing antidotes for cyanide must be administered by intravenous infusion, or by an “IV.” That procedure requires highly trained paramedical personnel and takes time.

Cyanide, however, is a fast-acting poison. In a situation involving mass casualties, only a limited number of victims could be saved with IV treatment. Thus, Patterson’s team sought an antidote that could be administered by intra-muscular injection, which is a simpler procedure. It could be administered rapidly to a large number of victims or even be self-administered.

Here’s Patterson:

“Our report describes the discovery of a substance, sulfanegen TEA, which should be amenable for development as an intra-muscular injectable antidote suitable for treatment of cyanide victims in a mass casualty setting. Further development, including efficacy in lethal cyanide animal models, will be reported at a later date.”

Smart Chemists/Innovative Thinking

Smart chemists. Innovative thinking. That’s the key to solving global challenges of the 21st Century. Please check out more of our full-length podcasts on wide-ranging issues facing chemistry and science, such as promoting public health, developing new fuels and confronting climate change, at www.acs.org/GlobalChallenges. Today’s podcast was written by Katie Cottingham—that’s me—and I’m at the American Chemical Society in Washington.

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Steven E. Patterson, Ph.D.,
University of Minnesota
Center for Drug Design