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Toxicology. 2004 Jul 1;199(2-3):195-206.

Biochemical changes in mouse lung after subcutaneous injection of the sulfur mustard 2-chloroethyl 4-chlorobutyl sulfide.

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Department of Nutrition and Environmental Sciences and Health, Graduate Program, University of Nevada at Reno, Reno, NV, USA.


Sulfur mustard (HD) is a vesicant-type chemical warfare agent (CWA) introduced in World War I which continues to be produced, stockpiled, and occasionally deployed by some countries, and could be used potentially by terrorists. Exposure to HD can cause erythema, blisters, corneal opacity, and airway damage. We have reported previously that subcutaneous (SC) injection of immunodeficient athymic nude mice with the half mustard butyl 2-chloroethyl sulfide (BCS) causes systemic biochemical changes in several organs distal to the exposure site. In the present study, we examined the response of non-immunodeficient Swiss Webster mice to the mustard, 2-chloroethyl 4-chlorobutyl sulfide (CECBS). In a pilot study, we found that a single SC injection of 20-25 microl/mouse causes death within 24h. Consequently, we used 5 microl/mouse (approx. 0.017 mg/kg body weight) of neat CECBS or an equal volume of saline as control. We examined the lungs after 1, 24, and 48 h for biochemical changes including total and oxidized glutathione, protein, DNA, and lipid peroxidation contents in tissue homogenate, and superoxide dismutase, catalase, glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase, and glutathione S-transferases activities in the cytosol. After 1h and/or 24h, we found statistically significant changes that were resolved by 48 h. These changes mimicked those of HD and BCS and were generally consistent with free radical-mediated oxidative stress. The implications of these observations are two-fold. First, dermal exposure to low-dose mustard gas could elicit systemic changes impacting distal organs such as the lungs. It also suggests that antioxidants could potentially modulate the response and reduce the damage. Second, although the use of known CWAs such as HD is prohibited, analogs that are not recognized as agents are as toxic and could be dangerous if acquired and used by potential terrorists.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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