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History of Neurology: Seminal Citations
April 2000

Organophosphorus Intoxication

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Neurology, Postgraduate Institute for Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh, India.



Arch Neurol. 2000;57(4):600-602. doi:10.1001/archneur.57.4.600

In every period of history, military leaders have wrestled between a desire to gain victory by using every possible means and a revulsion from resorting to poison. During the First World War, a European country cast aside the humanitarian tradition of its poets and philosophers and attacked its enemies with a wave of chlorine gas; the same nation, 30 years later, put to death 6 million human beings in gas chambers. But out of the industry of war gases, a few organophosphorus compounds, notably tabun and sarin, later underwent large-scale development. These compounds are nowadays used primarily as insecticides. Several early citations on organophosphate compounds place this chemical class in neurological context. However, as evidenced by events during the Gulf War of 1991 and the United Nations' arsenal inspections during that war, military interests in organophosphates are medically very pertinent today, beyond just historical allusions.