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Open Access Histopathologic Changes in the Brain, Heart, and Skeletal Muscle of Rhesus Macaques, Ten Days after Exposure to Soman (an Organophosphorus Nerve Agent)

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Background and Purpose: Soman, an organophosphorus, anticholinergic, chemical warfare nerve agent, is studied at few research facilities, and there have been few pathologic studies of soman-exposed primates. We describe the brain, heart, and skeletal muscle lesions, review lesions described in literature, and discuss possible pharmacologic mechanisms for soman-induced neuron necrosis.

Methods: In this retrospective, histopathologic study, records were obtained for 36 rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta) that were euthanized 10 days after soman exposure, from a larger group of 103 monkeys that were exposed to soman and used for pharmacologic and lethality studies.

Results: Brain lesions were seen in 9 of 15 animals that convulsed and in only 1 of 21 that did not convulse. The brain lesions in our primates were limited to the hippocampus, amygdala, and thalamus (of one animal), and consisted of neuron necrosis and dropout, spongiosis, gliosis, astrocytosis, and vascularization. Heart lesions consisted of myocardial degeneration and necrosis. Three animals had brain and heart lesions, 7 had brain lesions only, and 3 had heart lesions only. Skeletal muscle lesions, although minimal to mild, were in most of the animals, whether they had convulsed, but most had muscular tremors. These lesions were in the biceps brachii (11 of 22 monkeys), anterior tibialis (8/22), biceps femoris (7/22), flexor carpi radialis (5/22), gastrocnemius (3/22), and diaphragm (1/22). The limited literature on soman lesions in primate brain and heart, and the limited information on skeletal muscle lesions, is reviewed.

Conclusions: Brain lesions were not as wide-spread as reported in other studies of primates and rodents, and were significantly associated with convulsions. Unlike other studies using rodents, we observed poor correlation between heart and brain lesions; thus, a single hypothesis to explain the pathogenesis for the brain and heart lesions may be difficult to establish.

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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2000-04-01

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  • Comparative Medicine (CM), an international journal of comparative and experimental medicine, is the leading English-language publication in the field and is ranked by the Science Citation Index in the upper third of all scientific journals. The mission of CM is to disseminate high-quality, peer-reviewed information that expands biomedical knowledge and promotes human and animal health through the study of laboratory animal disease, animal models of disease, and basic biologic mechanisms related to disease in people and animals.

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