More Than Skin Deep: Breakthroughs to Counter Deadly VX

First developed in the United Kingdom in the early 1950s, VX is one of the most toxic chemical weapon threats facing our warfighters. An organophosphorus nerve agent, VX is odorless, colorless and tasteless, and can stay on unprotected surfaces for days. Dermal or inhalation exposure to VX, like most chemical weapon nerve agents, may result in muscle paralysis, shortness of breath, seizures and death. To counter this threat, our warfighters need a reliable treatment option for both broken and unbroken skin.

While the DoD currently uses the Reactive Skin Decontamination Lotion (RSDL) for broad-spectrum agent elimination on unbroken skin, a capability gap exists for treating chemical agent exposure to large affected areas or open wounds. This need has led researchers from the Defense Threat Reduction Agency’s Chemical and Biological Technologies Department to develop new personnel decontamination therapeutics.

A current DTRA CB-funded research effort, conducted by the U.S. Army Research Institute for Chemical Defense (USAMRICD), is exploring the decontamination properties of Veriox®, a topical antimicrobial, anti-infective and disinfectant. Veriox® is under development for use in hospitals for medical device sterilization, surface disinfection and advanced wound care. The same properties that make it useful in these situations may also mean that it could be used to treat warfighters after exposure to a chemical weapon.

Recent USAMRICD studies have shown that the median lethal dose of VX in Veriox®-treated animals is 1.8-fold higher than in RSDL-treated animals. While preliminary studies demonstrate Veriox® provides a significant reduction in lethality from nerve agents, in-depth efficacy studies are needed to fully assess the compound. If successful, Veriox® could provide an alternative dermal capability for military personnel, particularly for open wound and whole-body decontamination.

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Source: DVIDS