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nerve gasesPowerful pharmacological agents, usually produced as volatile liquids that operate after inhalation or after absorption through the skin. Nerve gases were developed from the organophosphorus insecticides and are inhibitors of the enzyme cholinesterase. Cholinesterase inhibition prevents the breakdown of acetylcholine which thus continues to act strongly causing strong parasympathetic effects. There is extreme salivation, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea, sweating, giddiness and tightness in the chest. The pupils of the eyes constrict and the vision blurs. Breathing fails and there are convulsions, coma and death. Very small doses can be fatal. See also ANTICHOLINESTERASE.
Collins Dictionary of Medicine © Robert M. Youngson 2004, 2005