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Science & Technology

San Antonio Scientists Working On Nasal Antidote For Cyanide Poisoning

Scientists at San Antonio’s Southwest Research Institute have been given the green light on phase two of a project to find a more practical antidote for cyanide poisoning that can be administered in the field. 

The $8.3 million contract research is part of the government’s Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority efforts to find a deliverable way to combat cyanide poisoning among large populations of civilians in case of a terrorist attack. 

Dr. Joe McDonough, director of the SwRI Microencapsulation and Nanomaterials Department, is the principal investigator and said cyanide is easy to make and deploy.

He said current antidotes allowed in the U.S. for cyanide poisoning are intravenous, injectable materials that are problematic and must be administered by a professional.   

"The types of scenarios where a cyanide antidote is needed is not in the hospital or the doctor's office but outside of that, where you would have to treat lots of people very quickly; and it's impossible to give an IV product to lots of people quickly," McDonough said. "So we're developing this nasally-instilled formulation." 

McDonough said phase one successfully tested a formulation of the nasal antidote on rats.

"By all measurable, observable details, they were dead," he said. "But you dose them nasally with isoamyl nitrite and they pop back to life. It's actually pretty amazing."

The second phase of the project must refine the dosage for human use and find the right device to deliver it, such as the nasal spray devices like those used for nasal steroid medications. 

McDonough said his research is often collaborative with the military, but this project is civilian in scope. The $8.3 million contract is for 28 months and is a follow-on of the $4.4 million dollar contract for phase one.