The therapeutic use of localized cooling in the treatment of VX poisoning

T W Sawyer, J Mikler, F Worek, G Reiter, H Thiermann, C Tenn, K Weatherby, S Bohnert
Toxicology Letters 2011 July 4, 204 (1): 52-6
The organophosphate (OP) nerve agent VX is a weaponized chemical warfare agent that has also been used by terrorists against civilians. This contact poison produces characteristic signs of OP poisoning, including miosis, salivation, mastication, dysrhythmias and respiratory distress prior to death. Although successful treatment of OP poisoning can be obtained through decontamination and/or oxime reactivation of agent-inhibited cholinesterase, medical countermeasures that increase the therapeutic window for these measures would be of benefit. An anaesthetized swine model was utilized to examine the effects of lethal VX exposure to the skin, followed by cooling the exposure site prior to decontamination or treatment. The cooling was simply accomplished by using crushed ice in grip-seal plastic bags applied to the exposure sites. Cooling of skin exposed to lethal doses of VX significantly increased the window of opportunity for successful decontamination using the Reactive Skin Decontaminant Lotion(®) (RSDL(®)) or treatment with the oxime antidotes HI-6 and 2PAM. Analyses of blood VX levels showed that cooling acted to slow or prevent the entry of VX into the bloodstream from the skin. If the exposure site is known, the simple and non-invasive application of cooling provides a safe means with which to dramatically increase the therapeutic window in which decontamination and/or antidote treatment against VX are life-saving.

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