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Am J Med Sci. 2002 Jun;323(6):326-40.

Microbiological, biological, and chemical weapons of warfare and terrorism.

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  • 1Section of Infectious Diseases, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, Oklahoma City, USA. ronald-greenfield@ouhsc.edu


Microbiological, biological, and chemical toxins have been employed in warfare and in terrorist attacks. In this era, it is imperative that health care providers are familiar with illnesses caused by these agents. Botulinum toxin produces a descending flaccid paralysis. Staphylococcal enterotoxin B produces a syndrome of fever, nausea, and diarrhea and may produce a pulmonary syndrome if aerosolized. Clostridium perfringens epsilon-toxin could possibly be aerosolized to produce acute pulmonary edema. Ricin intoxication can manifest as gastrointestinal hemorrhage after ingestion, severe muscle necrosis after intramuscular injection, and acute pulmonary disease after inhalation. Nerve agents inhibit acetylcholinesterase and thus produce symptoms of increased cholinergic activity. Ammonia, chlorine, vinyl chloride, phosgene, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide, tear gas, and zinc chloride primarily injure the upper respiratory tract and the lungs. Sulfur mustard (and nitrogen mustard) are vesicant and alkylating agents. Cyanide poisoning ranges from sudden-onset headache and drowsiness to severe hypoxemia, cardiovascular collapse, and death. Health care providers should be familiar with the medical consequences of toxin exposure, and understand the pathophysiology and management of resulting illness.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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