MS drug could fight botulinum neurotoxin

Scientists have recently reported that variants of a drug already in use against multiple sclerosis has shown potential as a treatment for victims of a bioterrorist attack that utilizes botulinum neurotoxin.

Botulism neurotoxin is thought to be 10,000 times more deadly than cyanide and one of the most poisonous substances known, according to

In the study, published in the monthly journal ACS Chemical Biology, Kim Janda and her colleagues explain that a gap in approved drugs for botulism poisoning leaves a major problem in the defense against bioterrorism and the use of biological weapons.

Those exposed to botulism, reports, have trouble breathing and could potentially be in need of long term care using a breathing apparatus.

"The numbers of medical care units capable of providing supportive care for recovery in the event of a bioterrorism incident would be limited," the authors note in the study, according to

The researchers found that the multiple sclerosis related drug diaminopyridine demonstrated real progress working in nerve cells to counter the effects of botulinum toxin. Unfortunately, the use of diaminopyridine has its own disadvantages, including the possibility it might pass into the brain and have toxic effects on tissue there.

The scientists were able to modify the cellular structure of diaminopyridine to produce to wholly new substances that showed promise in mice and potentially did not damage the brain.

The use these drugs may also help in the treatment of other forms of botulism related poisoning as well as Alzheimer’s disease and myasthenia gravis.