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VX
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VX

 

The VX nerve gas is the most well-known of the V-series of nerve agents. Its chemical name is O-ethyl S-(2-diisopropylaminoethyl) methylphosphonothioate. The chemical formula is CH3CH20-P(O)(CH3)-SCH2CH2N(C3H7)2

The only countries known to possess VX gas are the US, France and Russia. VX gas is considered a weapon of mass destruction because of its property of spreading out as all gases do; for this reason it has been conjectured that its use may be a trigger for a thermonuclear retaliation.

VX has the texture and feel of high-grade motor oil, with low viscosity, and low volatility. This makes it especially dangerous: it has a high persistence in the environment. It works as a nerve agent by blocking the function of the enzyme acetylcholinesterase. Normally, an electric nerve pulse would cause the release of acetylcholine over a synapse that would touch the post-synaptic neuron. This continues the transmission of a nerve signal over the synapse. The excess acetylcholine is then hydrolyzed to non-reactive substances (acetic acid and choline). VX blocks acetylcholinesterase's diffusing properties, thus causing nerves to fire continuously resulting in contractions of all the "involuntary" muscles in the body.

As little as 10 mg is enough to kill an average person. Death can be avoided if an autoinjector is used immediately after exposure. Standard chemical agent resistance pills are also effective. The most commonly used antidote in the form of an autoinjector is Atropine. Atropine works by binding and blocking the acetylcholine, so that the loss of the acetylcholinesterase function no longer causes a build up of acetylcholine. This prevents involuntary muscle actions and muscles like the diaphragm would not be in constant contraction.

Researchers in Porton Down, England in 1952 invented the chemical; the British government later abandoned the project. In 1958 the British government traded their research on VX technology with the United States of America in exchange for information on thermonuclear weapons. The US then went into production of large amounts of VX in 1961. The US is currently trying to destroy stockpiles of the deadly nerve agent (by incineration at Johnston Island in the South Pacific), as mandated by the US's accession to the Chemical Weapons Convention.

VX was featured in the 1996 action movie The Rock.

See also: Nerve gas

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