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Toxicology. 2002 Oct 30;180(1):65-77.

Role of antioxidants in paraquat toxicity.

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Health Hazards Group, Biomedical Sciences Section, Defence and Civil Institute of Environmental Medicine, 1133 Sheppard Avenue West, Toronto, Ont, Canada M3M3B9.


Paraquat, a quarternary nitrogen herbicide, is a highly toxic compound for humans and animals and many cases of acute poisoning and death have been reported over the past few decades. The mechanisms of paraquat toxicity involve: the generation of the superoxide anion, which can lead to the formation of more toxic reactive oxygen species, such as hydrogen peroxide and hydroxyl radical; and the oxidation of the cellular NADPH, the major source of reducing equivalents for the intracellular reduction of paraquat, which results in the disruption of important NADPH-requiring biochemical processes. The major cause of death in paraquat poisoning is respiratory failure due to an oxidative insult to the alveolar epithelium with subsequent obliterating fibrosis. Management of paraquat poisoning has remained mostly supportive and has been directed towards the modification of the toxicokinetics of the poison. Currently, there are no true pharmacological antagonists for paraquat and there are no chelating agents capable of binding the poison in the blood or other tissues. Recognizing the fact that paraquat induces its toxic effects via oxidative stress-mediated mechanisms, innovations in the management of paraquat poisoning are directed towards the use of antioxidants. In this review, the status of antioxidants in ameliorating or treating the toxic effects produced by paraquat is presented.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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