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Future Considerations for the Medical Management of Nerve-Agent Intoxication

  • Pål Aas (a1)

The use of chemical warfare agents against civilians and unprotected troops in international conflicts or by terrorists against civilians is considered to be a real threat, particularly following the terrorist attacks on 11 September 2001 against the World Trade Center in New York and against the Pentagon in Washington, DC. Over the past 10 years, terrorists have been planning to use or have used chemical warfare agents on several occasions around the world, and the attacks in 2001 illustrate their willingness to use any means of warfare to cause death and destruction among civilians. In spite of new international treaties with strong verification measures and with an aim to prohibit and prevent the use of weapons of mass destruction, nevertheless, some countries and terrorist groups have been able to develop, produce, and use such weapons, particularly nerve agents, in domestic terrorist attacks or during warfare in international conflicts. This article reviews current medical therapy for nerve-agent intoxication and discusses possible future improvement of medical therapies.

Present medical counter-measures against nerve agents are not sufficiently effective particularly in protecting the brain. Therefore, new and more effective countermeasures must be developed to enable better medical treatment of civilians and military personnel following exposure to nerve agents. Therefore, it is important with an enhanced effort by all countries, to improve and increase research in medical countermeasures, in the development of protective equipment, and in carrying out regular training of medical and emergency personnel as well as of military nuclear, biological, or chemical (NBC) units. Only then will nations be able to reduce the risk from and prevent the use of such weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

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Chief Scientist, Norwegian Defense Research Establishment, Postbox 25, NO-2027 Kjeller, Norway, E-mail:
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