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Red Blood Cell Acetylcholinesterase and Plasma Butyrylcholinesterase Status: Important Indicators for the Treatment of Patients Poisoned by Organophosphorus Compounds

Institute for Medical Research and Occupational Health
Publication Date
  • Liječenje Oksimima
  • Nervni Agensi
  • Neuromuskularni Prijenos
  • Otrovanje Ljudi
  • Pesticidi
  • Human Poisoning
  • Nerve Agents
  • Neuromuscular Transmission
  • Oxime Therapy
  • Pesticides
  • Medicine


Inhibition of acetylcholinesterase (AChE) is regarded as the primary toxic mechanism of organophosphorus compounds (OP). Therapeutic strategies are directed to antagonise overstimulation of muscarinic receptors with atropine and to reactivate inhibited AChE with oximes. Reactivation is crucial within the neuromuscular synapse, where atropine is ineffective, since peripheral neuromuscular block eventually leads to respiratory failure. Patients with OP intoxication have to be identified as early as possible. During an international NBC-defence exercise anesthetised pigs were poisoned with sarin, followed by treatment with atropine and oxime. Blood samples were drawn and red blood cell (RBC)-AChE activity determined with a fielded test system on-site. Within a few minutes the poisoning was verified. After administration of HI-6, RBC-AChE activity increased rapidly. Blood samples were reanalysed in our laboratory in Munich. Almost identical course of the AChE activities was recorded by both systems. The more comprehensive cholinesterase status was determined in Munich. Oxime administration can be stopped when AChE is aged completely, but has to be continued as long as poison is present in the body and reactivation is possible. To aid the on-site physician in optimising diagnosis and treatment, a fielded test system should be available to allow rapid determination of the complete cholinesterase status.

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