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February 18, 1950


JAMA. 1950;142(7):488-489. doi:10.1001/jama.1950.02910250036011

Biochemical investigations into the mode of action of the arsenical blister gases by Peters, Stocken and Thompson1 during the last war led to the discovery of the compound 2,3-dimercaptopropanol, which was highly effective in preventing vesication in skin contaminated with arsenical gases, such as lewisite, and also in the treatment of systemic effects resulting from the absorbed arsenic in experimental animals heavily contaminated with lewisite. This substance, which came to be known as British antilewisite or BAL, is active because it is a dithiol and forms a compound with arsenic which is nontoxic and much more [ill][ill]able than the compounds resulting from the action of monothiols. The report of the Council on Pharmacy and Chemistry2 in 1946 pointed out that arsenic and mercury combine with and block the function of the physiologically essential grouping in the cell, specifically of cellular SH (sulfhydryl) groups. BAL competes with these cell