Following the nerve agent attack in Salisbury on former double agent, Sergei Skripal, 66, and his 33-year-old daughter, Yulia on Mar. 4, some are asking–What is this military grade nerve agent, Novichok?
Outbreak News Today reached out to biodefense and bioterrorism researcher and Professor at Laboure College, Lawrence Roberge PhD for some thoughts and background.
“Novichok-means newcomer. Developed by the Soviet Union in the 1970’s and 1980’s as part of their “foliant” program, it was developed to bypass international chemical weapons treaties and be undetectable by NATO Chemical weapons forces, yet it is believed to be five to eight times more powerful that VX agent (a British nerve agent class developed in the 1950’s- V-stands for Venomous).
“There are 100 different types, (best known is Novichok-5), no one knows the exact formula for them, but they appear to be a fluorinated organophosphate which targets the enzyme acetylcholinesterase-but can lead to rapid breakdown of the enzyme.
“The major reason the “Russians” were suspected was because it was novichok-which most in the West do not know about and the counteragent for nerve agent exposure Pralidoxime is useless to Novichok.
“Russsian chemists, Lev Fedorov and Vil Mirzayanov, blew the whistle on the existence of novichok due to questions of environmental hazards and other issues. Milzayanov after serving jail time for treason, is in the US.
“I suspect the US knows more about the chemistry and synthesis of the chemical-but maybe they are not allowing it into open literature for the following reason: Small batches of the chemical were weaponized and tested near Ustyurt Plateau, a central plateau in Uzbekistan and since the independence of this nation-they have worked with the US to decontaminate and dismantle manufacture sites for novichok.
“This included in 2002, the US-as part of the Cooperative Threat Reduction treaty-dismantling the former Soviet research center, Chemical Research Institute in Nukus, UZ-cost $6 million. The only real reason to keep it secret-aside of Russian cheating- is that IF the synthesis technology is known, the use of this chemical agent would have a higher causality rate-and lower recovery rate-than other chemical weapons used by rogue states or terrorists.”
Public Health England released their latest summary yesterday saying they have been working closely with the police and national experts on chemical weapons since the start of the incident. The health effects of chemical exposures are generally related to the dose received.
It is clear that this substance can have a serious immediate effect on those who have a significant dose as we have seen in Mr Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, who are both currently being treated in hospital.
In contrast, the general public who were in the Mill Pub or Zizzi’s restaurant could only have been exposed to extremely small traces, if any. There will have been a huge difference between the dose those 2 patients received compared to anyone who happened to come into contact with low level traces.
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