Thursday, April 12, 2018

Novichok: Russia's Antidote to Seafood Poisoning?

UK PM, Theresa May, already in a state of Russophobic arousal because of the alleged nerve-agent poisoning of a retired Russian spy on British Soil, is now ready to follow Tony Bliar by entering into an Anglo-American war of aggression against a small middle-Eastern power, based on a pack of lies: specifically, the allegation by the usual head-chopping suspects that Syrian President Assad is killing his own people with chemical weapons. Examination of the published evidence, however, reveals a total lack of substance. 

For example, US Secretary of Defense, General Mattis, a few hours ago told Congress that "he believes" that there was a chemical attack in Syria, but added that "the United States wants inspectors on the ground soon since the job of collecting evidence becomes more difficult as time passed."

So what Mattis knows about events in Douma at the time of the alleged chlorine gas attack is, apparently, nothing. But for the sake of the pro-war narrative, Mattis "believes" what there is no evidence for believing.

As for Britain's celebrated nerve agent attack on the former Russian Spy, Sergei Skripal, and his daughter, Yulia, it is interesting to note that the Skripals became ill several hours after a seafood lunch.

That is interesting because the time of onset of symptoms of poisoning relative to the time of their midday meal, i.e., an interval of several hours, is consistent with seafood poisoning, not nerve agent poisoning, which takes effect within seconds of contact.

Seafood poisoning can be due to the presence many different toxins,* including botulinum toxin, which inhibits release of acetylcholine at the neuromuscular junction, thereby causing paralysis and, in severe cases, death by asphyxiation.
Image source
To counter the toxin, it would be reasonable, therefore, in a severe case, to treat patients with an acetylcholine esterase inhibitor to maximize the effect of whatever small quantity of acetylcholine is still being released into the synaptic cleft of the neuromuscular junction. Thus, if the Salisbury Trust Hospital where the Skripals were taken for treatment had requested the assistance of people at Britain's nearby Porton Down chemical and biological weapons research lab, as surely they would have, then they may well have been supplied with a small dose of British-made Novichok,** a most powerful choline esterase inhibitor, to increase the persistence of whatever acetylcholine was being produced at the neuromuscular junction***. 

By inhibiting the action of acetylcholinesterase a nerve agent such
as Novichok increases the persistence of acetyl choline in the cleft
of the neuromuscular junction, thereby countering the inhibition of 
acetyl choline release caused by botulinum toxin. Image source.
If that were the case, then the British Government would have the perfect set-up for the incitement of Russophobia. Specifically, they would have been in a position to supply the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons with blood samples of the afflicted Russians that contained traces of Novichok,  a nerve agent "of a type developed in Russia," as British Government representatives, from Theresa May on down, have repeatedly stated.

Clearly the account of the Skripals' poisoning offered here is speculative, but it centers on a theory as to how the blood samples from the Skripals could have contained traces of Novichok in a way consistent with the letter to the Times from the Salisbury Trust Hospital's Resident in Emergency Medicine, Stephen Davies. In that letter, Davies said "no patients have experienced nerve agent poisoning in Salisbury:"  a true statement if the Skripals were treated with, not poisoned by, Novichok. Botulinum toxin, it is true, is also a nerve agent, but considered, in the present context, not as a nerve agent but a form of food poisoning. 
* Seafoods may contain many kinds of toxin, mostly of a type known as nerve agents, aka WMD's. The various toxins are produced by different microorganisms. Some toxins act as sodium-channel blockers, thereby preventing the spreading wave of electrical depolarization of nerve cell membranes that constitutes a nerve impulse.

A common microbial contaminant of seafood is Clostridium botulinum, which in one survey was found in about one quarter of all fish and shellfish samples tested. In the absence of oxygen, for example in canned fish that has been incompletely sterilized, Clostridium botulinum produces botulinum toxin, the deadliest poison known, ten billionths of a gram being sufficient to cause death.

As an inhibitor of acetylcholine release at the neuromuscular junction, botulinum toxin causes paralysis. The effect of botulinum toxin should thus be countered by nerve agents such as Novichok an inhibitor acetylcholine esterase, which causes tetany, or intense muscle contraction, by preventing break-down of whatever acetylcholine is released at the neuromuscular juction.

** According to Cornell University Chemistry Professor, Dave Collum, Novichok is a simple compound that could be prepared by his third year organic chemistry students. It is almost certain, therefore, that the Porton Down lab would have a supply of Novichok on hand.

*** Zakhari, J.S. et al. 2011. Formulating a new basis for the treatment against botulinum neurotoxin intoxication: 3,4-Diaminopyridine prodrug design and characterization Bioorg. Med. Chem. 9(21):6203-9.

Craig Murray:Yulia Skripal Is Plainly Under Duress
Moon of Alabama: Yulia Skripal released from Hospital: held in UK police custody.

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