In vivo decontamination of the nerve agent VX using the domestic swine model
The purpose of this in vivo study was to assess a new, putatively optimised method for mass casualty decontamination ("ORCHIDS protocol") for effectiveness in removing the chemical warfare agent VX from the skin of anaesthetised, domestic white pigs. ORCHIDS protocol consists of a 1.5-minute shower with a mild detergent (Argos™) supplemented by physical removal. A standard method of wet decontamination was used for comparison. Experimental animals were divided into four groups (A-D). Two groups were exposed to a supra-lethal percutaneous dose (5 × LD(50); 300 μg kg(-1)) of VX for 1 h prior to decontamination with either the ORCHIDS (C) or standard protocol (D). A third (B, positive control) group was exposed but not subject to decontamination. Blank controls (A) received anaesthesia and the corresponding dose of normal saline instead of VX. Observations of the clinical signs of intoxication were supplemented by measurements of whole blood cholinesterase (ChE) performed on samples of arterial blood acquired at 30-minute intervals for the duration of the study (up to 6 h). Untreated (B) animals displayed typical cholinergic signs consistent with VX intoxication (local fasciculation, mastication, salivation, pilo-erection and motor convulsions) and died 165-240 min post exposure. All animals in both decontamination treatment groups (C, D) survived the duration of the study and exhibited less severe signs of cholinergic poisoning. Thus, both the standard and ORCHIDS protocol were demonstrably effective against exposure to the potent nerve agent VX, even after a delay of 1 h. A critical advantage of the ORCHIDS protocol is the relatively short shower duration (1½ min compared to 3 min). In practice, this could substantially improve the rate at which individuals could be decontaminated by emergency responders following exposure to toxic materials such as chemical warfare agents.