Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

WWII Discovery May Counter Bioterrorists

Date:
February 28, 2003
Source:
Indiana University
Summary:
A compound developed by British scientists early in World War II as a treatment against chemical weapons has value against today's threat of bioterrorism, according to Indiana University School of Medicine researchers at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne.

FORT WAYNE, Indiana - A compound developed by British scientists early in World War II as a treatment against chemical weapons has value against today's threat of bioterrorism, according to Indiana University School of Medicine researchers at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne.

Researchers studying British Anti-Lewisite provide an overview of its historical uses, development and clinical implications today of the heavy metal chelating agent, detailed in the March issue of the Annals of Emergency Medicine. BAL is a medical therapy to remove metal poisonings from the body.

"BAL was secretly developed more than six decades ago by biochemists at Oxford University and is still stocked in many hospital pharmacies and used occasionally by emergency physicians," says article co-author Joel A. Vilensky, Ph.D., professor of anatomy at the School's Fort Wayne Center for Medical Education.

Kent L. Redman, Ph.D., associate professor of biochemistry and molecular biology, co-authored the study with Dr. Vilensky.

"The possible threat of terrorism gives this World War II discovery renewed significance among emergency physicians because it is a treatment for Lewisite, a chemical warfare agent that produces immediate pain and blistering on contact and can cause blindness if it gets into the eyes," Dr. Vilensky notes. "Lewisite is a threat because it is easy for any country to manufacture with simple pesticide-manufacturing technology." Iraq is believed to have used Lewisite in its earlier war with Iran.

Developed for use during World War I, Lewisite is an arsenic-based liquid chemical compound that, similar to mustard, is easily vaporized into a poison gas and is capable of penetrating ordinary clothing and rubber. When inhaled in high concentrations, it may be fatal in as few as 10 minutes.

Fear of German use of Lewisite led British scientists at the beginning of World War II to develop an antidote, 2,3-dimercaptopropanol, which came to be known as BAL. The treatment is capable of removing heavy metals such as arsenic, copper, mercury and lead from the human body.

After the war, BAL was put to clinical use by becoming the first successful treatment for Wilson's disease, a genetic disorder that causes the body to retain copper. If not treated, Wilson's disease can cause severe brain damage, liver failure, and death. Today, BAL is one recommended treatment for children with very high blood lead levels in conjunction with other agents, the IU School of Medicine researchers noted in their article.

"Little did those Oxford biochemists working on the antidote to a greatly feared chemical warfare agent realize that BAL would still be needed 60 years later for heavy metal poisoning," Dr. Redman notes. "In the process, BAL helped change clinical medicine and perhaps altered the course of World War II by reducing the fear of Lewisite's use on the battlefield."

###

The Annals of Emergency Medicine is the journal of the American College of Emergency Physicians, an organization of 23,000 members.

The IU School of Medicine is the second largest medical school in the United States with more than 1,200 students. It has nine medical centers in Indiana for first- and second-year students, including the Fort Wayne Center for Medical Education. All medical students complete their final two years at the School's main campus in Indianapolis.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Indiana University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Indiana University. "WWII Discovery May Counter Bioterrorists." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 February 2003. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/02/030228072906.htm>.
Indiana University. (2003, February 28). WWII Discovery May Counter Bioterrorists. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 3, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/02/030228072906.htm
Indiana University. "WWII Discovery May Counter Bioterrorists." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/02/030228072906.htm (accessed September 3, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Snack Attack: Study Says Action Movies Make You Snack More

Snack Attack: Study Says Action Movies Make You Snack More

Newsy (Sep. 2, 2014) You're more likely to gain weight while watching action flicks than you are watching other types of programming, says a new study published in JAMA. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
U.N. Says Ebola Travel Restrictions Will Cause Food Shortage

U.N. Says Ebola Travel Restrictions Will Cause Food Shortage

Newsy (Sep. 2, 2014) The U.N. says the problem is two-fold — quarantine zones and travel restrictions are limiting the movement of both people and food. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Doctors Fear They're Losing Battle Against Ebola

Doctors Fear They're Losing Battle Against Ebola

AP (Sep. 2, 2014) As a third American missionary is confirmed to have contracted Ebola in Liberia, doctors on the ground in West Africa fear they're losing the battle against the outbreak. (Sept. 2) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Tech Giants Bet on 3D Headsets for Gaming, Healthcare

Tech Giants Bet on 3D Headsets for Gaming, Healthcare

AFP (Sep. 2, 2014) When Facebook acquired the virtual reality hardware developer Oculus VR in March for $2 billion, CEO Mark Zuckerberg hailed the firm's technology as "a new communication platform." Duration: 02:24 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins