The first human trial of a new drug that could reverse the effects of radiation from a dirty bomb or a nuclear accident is underway in the United States.
HOPO 14-1 works against elements that can be used to make dirty bombs, which are explosive devices steeped in radioactive substances.
Dirty bombs are different from nuclear ones in that they can only contaminate an area within a few miles of the explosion, instead of a thousand.
Two drugs, both based on diethylenetriamine pentaacetate (DTPA), are already being used on people exposed to radiation.
Iodine tablets have also been given to people exposed to radioactive iodine as a result of a nuclear accident, such as the one in Chernobyl in 1986.
But if it proves safe and effective, HOPO 14-1 could be given to people in tablet form, which would be much easier than intravenous methods in an emergency.
It would also offer an antidote to elements more dangerous than simple iodine, including plutonium, americium and curium.
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The first phase of the trial is funded by the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and conducted by the SRI International research institute in California.
It will be carried out on 42 healthy adults, aged between 18 and 65, who will be given varying doses of the drug.
They will be monitored for 14 days, with results expected in 2024.
Mass destruction weapons
Dirty bombs, also known as radiological devices or RDDs, are classified as “weapons of mass destruction” by US authorities.
They cause far less damage than nuclear bombs, or “weapons of mass destruction.” But if inhaled, ingested or exposed to an open wound, the substances they emit can cause cancer, DNA damage and organ damage.
No dirty bomb attacks were successful.
Chechen rebels planted a bomb containing dynamite and radioactive caesium-137 in Moscow’s Izmailovo Park in 1996, but it was found and destroyed. Two years later, Chechen intelligence defused a dirty bomb left near a railway line.
Al-Qaeda operatives have also been arrested for dirty devices in the UK and the US.
During its invasion of Ukraine, Russia claimed Ukrainian forces plan to bomb its own citizensbut this has been dismissed as “apparently false” by the West.