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Alzheimer's Drug can be Used to Treat Nerve Agent and Pesticide Poisoning

ed to toxic doses of nerve agents survive when they receive a combination of other medications, including atropine, oximes and benzodiazepines. However, even with this drug cocktail, animals surviving the initial nerve agent exposure can develop neurological effects.

Dr. Albuquerque and his colleagues studied the effects of galantamine in an animal model to counteract the neurological devastation caused by nerve agents and organophosphorus pesticides. "We wanted to test a drug with neuroprotective properties that is widely available and safe and could be as effective taken before as it would be taken after an exposure," says Dr. Albuquerque. "Galantamine fit that description."

In the study, those animals treated with galantamine and later exposed to lethal doses of soman or sarin survived and showed no signs of the most common symptoms of exposure to nerve agents, such as convulsions, respiratory distress and loss of coordinated movement. Comparatively, those animals treated with the standard therapy of atropine and benzodiazepines died after exposure. "To our amazement, the animals treated with galantamine behaved as if they had not been exposed to these lethal agents," says Dr. Albuquerque. The researchers repeated the experiments with paraoxon, the active metabolite of the insecticide parathion, and again, all of the animals survived with no signs of toxicity.

Because it is difficult to predict when a person might be exposed to toxic levels of nerve agents on the battlefield or in a terrorist attack, or to toxic levels of insecticides during farm and garden work, the researchers also studied whether treatment with galantamine following exposure could counteract their toxicity effectively.

"All the animals treated with the antidotal therapy consisting of galantamine and atropine within five minutes after an exposure to lethal doses of soman and paraoxon survived with no side effects," says Dr. Albuquerque.


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