Colorado doctor researching antidotes for chemical weapons like ones used in Syria

Posted at 10:15 PM, Apr 07, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-08 17:13:07-04

AURORA, Colo. -- A University of Colorado School of Medicine doctor is doing groundbreaking research to find antidotes for chemical weapons like the ones used in the deadly attacks in Syria.

"These kids are having seizures. They're unresponsive. This does look like a chemical attack," said Dr. Vik Bebarta, while watching videos that have recently come out of Syria.

He has seen the symptoms first-hand during four tours of duty. During a tour in Jordan, he trained doctors in the region how to treat victims of chemical weapons attacks.

"Foaming at the mouth, trouble breathing, seizing, these exact same effects," he said, shaking his head quietly.

Now, Bebarta is an ER Doctor at University of Colorado Hospital and a Medical Toxicologist for the CU School of Medicine doing groundbreaking research on better antidotes for chemical weapons such as mustard gas, cyanide and hydrogen sulfide.

"They need to be simple. They need to be injectable, and they have to be very safe," said Bebarta, who wants to get more effective antidotes into the hands of first responders, who can immediately save lives. "If the paramedics don't have those antidotes in their pockets, the patients will probably die before they ever reach the hospital, and we need to be better about that."

Bebarta said some chemical agents, such as Cyanide, have antidotes, but they have to be administered intravenously, which can be difficult in the field, let alone a war zone.

His research focuses on creating antidotes that can be taken orally, inhaled or injected into muscles.

"University of Colorado leads the country in helping develop antidotes against these chemical weapons, and I think we're going to have some breakthroughs very soon," he said.

For him, it's about more than the research, it is about the people he has met -- doctors, patients, and friends whose lives could be saved.

"Our goal is to get them across the world as soon as possible," he said.

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