Cyanide is a highly poisonous compound that can enter the body by inhalation, ingestion or contact with skin or eyes. Exposure to cyanide can quickly become fatal.
Why is cyanide a chemical of concern for first responders?
First responders may encounter cyanide in several ways, including as a response to a chemical suicide incident or when cyanide is used as a chemical weapon. A much more common source of cyanide exposure for firefighters is smoke inhalation due to a fire or exposure to the byproducts of combustion after a fire. This is due to the increased use of synthetic polymers in common building materials and furnishings, which release cyanide when they burn.
Why is a new treatment necessary?
When someone is exposed to a toxic amount of cyanide, a rapid medical intervention is required. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, all current Food and Drug Administration-approved treatments for cyanide poisoning require IV infusion for delivery.
Because time is critical to a successful medical intervention for acute cyanide poisoning, a first-line treatment that can be administered more quickly and easily is needed.
How will this new treatment meet this need?
The Department of Health and Human Services’ Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority funded research to develop a simple and effective treatment for cyanide poisoning that could be rapidly delivered in a variety of settings. The result, currently being clinically studied, is an intranasal spray intended for administration by first responders and medical personnel following a cyanide incident.
When will this new treatment be available?
Following several years of research by Emergent BioSolutions, in collaboration with Southwest Research Institute, this treatment, using stabilized isoamyl nitrite, is in Phase 1 clinical studies to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of this treatment on humans. Availability will depend on many factors including the study results and regulatory approvals.
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