A pandemic waiting to happen: Acute radiation syndrome and the immediate need for nuclear countermeasures

[Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons]

In case of nuclear war, or even a limited nuclear strike, the greatest threat to human health, besides blast and burn injuries, is from acute radiation syndrome or ARS. This ominous and little-known acronym refers to the acute illness that ensues from significant partial- or whole-body irradiation. High turnover tissues such as the skin, bone marrow, gut and central nervous system (CNS) are particularly vulnerable to ARS.

A bulwark against this possibility is radioprotective countermeasures. These are therapies given before radiation exposure, usually with antioxidant or anti-inflammatory properties that prevent the development or reduce the severity of acute radiation syndrome; other therapies, called radiomitigators are administered after radiation exposure to treat its complications.

The pressing need for radioprotective medical countermeasures

In light of the aggr…

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