How to defeat a nerve agent

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Science  05 Jan 2018:
Vol. 359, Issue 6371, pp. 23
DOI: 10.1126/science.359.6371.23

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The long-term effects of nerve agents remain uncertain, but with the right antidotes, these poisons need not be an immediate death sentence. U.S. soldiers in 1991's Gulf War carried autoinjectors filled with drugs that—in principle—would keep them breathing and protect them from seizures if Iraqi forces again unleashed nerve agents. They never did, most historians agree, but the threat remains real today, as chemical attacks in Syria's ongoing civil war make clear. The likeliest nerve agent to be used in future attacks, defense experts say, is sarin: It's as volatile as water and disperses widely in the air. The threat of future nerve agent attacks is spurring urgent efforts to find better countermeasures, with several promising compounds in the pipeline.