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Cyclosarin is a highly deadly chemical warfare agent. It is a member of the highly toxic organophosphorus compound family.  Cyclosarin was not regarded as a high priority chemical warfare agent until Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm, when the UN special commission found that cyclosarin made up a large portion of the Iraqi chemical stockpile.

Just the facts

Physical Information

Name: Cyclosarin

Use: chemical warfare

Source: synthetic chemistry

Recommended daily intake: none

Absorption: dermal, inhalation, ingestion, injection

Sensitive individuals: all

Toxicity/symptoms: lethal

Regulatory facts: outlawed

Environmental: persistent

Molecular Formula: C7H14FO2P

Molecular Weight: 180.14 Degrees F



Mechanism of Toxicity

Like all Organophosphates, cyclosarin inhibits the enzyme acetlycholinesterase (AChE), causing overstimulation by a build-up of acetylcholine. Acetlycholinesterase is necessary for normal control of nerve impulse transmission.

Potential for Exposure

Opportunities of exposure to chemical warfare nerve agents, such as cyclosarin include:

  • On the battlefield
  • To civilians as a threat by a terrorist group
  • An accident involving current demilitarization efforts

Signs and Symptoms of Poisoning

All cholinesterase inhibitors produce similar symptoms:

  • Salivation
  • Lacrimation (tears)
  • Hypothermia
  • Tremors
  • Altered neuromuscular function
  • Neuropathological lesions
  • Long-term deficits in cognitive function and behavior
  • Seizures
  • Paralysis
  • Respiratory Failure and death

Most long-term effects are unknown, and are the subject of current animal studies. Current data suggest that, even after treatment, long-term effects include memory impairment, epileptic seizures, and central neuropathy. (Filiat 1999)


Following exposure to cyclosarin, the best therapy is immediate treatment with an
anticholinergic drug, such as atropine. Anticholinergeric drugs counteract the effect of excessive build-up of acetylcholine. In addition it is helpful to administer an oxime-reactivator of acetlycholinesterase, such as pralidoxime, obidoxime, or methoxime.

References 2003. Factsheets on Chemical and Biological Warfare Agents: CF
( Accessed 5/4/2008

Filliat et al. 1999. Improvement with anticholinergic and antiglutamatergic therapeutics, Neurotoxicology. 20:535-550.

Krejcova-Kunesova G, Bartosova L, Kuca K. 2005. Signs of cyclosarin-induced neurotoxicity and its pharmacological treatment with quaternary pyridinium-oximes reactivators. Toxicology. 216(1):32-40

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