June 16, 2024

Finding evidence in plants for the use of chemical weapons

4 min read


Analytical Scientists at the University of Amsterdam’s Van ‘t Hoff institute for Molecular Sciences and colleagues from TNO have shown that chemical warfare brokers respond with plant proteins to variety secure protein adducts for the initially time.

These ‘biomarkers’ could nonetheless be detected in the dwelling plants, as nicely as in dried leaves, up to three months following the precise exposure. This permits forensic reconstructions of the use of chemical weapons, which can guide investigations into alleged use in conflict areas.

Photo of leaves of selected plants. (A) Bay laurel leaf (Laurus nobilis), (B) Basil (Ocimum basilicum), (C) Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica). Image taken from the paper.

Photo of leaves of chosen vegetation. (A) Bay laurel leaf (Laurus nobilis), (B) Basil (Ocimum basilicum), (C) Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica). Image taken from the paper.

The research was a short while ago posted as a ‘hot article’ in the scientific journal Analytical Strategies and functions on the address.

1st creator is Mirjam de Bruin-Hoegée who carried out the analysis as element of her PhD review beneath supervision of Arian van Asten, professor of Forensic Analytical Chemistry and On Scene Chemical Evaluation at the University of Amsterdam and one of the administrators of the Amsterdam Heart for Forensic Science and Drugs (CLHC).

De Bruin-Hoegée cooperated with scientists at TNO Defence, Protection and Security in Rijswijk, and with researchers of several member states of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) as portion of its “Plant Biomarker Challenge”. The OPCW was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2013 for its in depth endeavours to do away with chemical weapons.

A basil - illustrative photo.

A basil – illustrative image. Impression credit rating: monicore by using Pixabay, totally free license

Abstract of the paper

The continuing threats of armed forces conflicts and terrorism could entail the misuse of chemical weapons. The present research aims to use environmental samples to uncover proof of the launch of such brokers at an incident scene. A novel method was formulated for figuring out protein adducts in plants.

Basil (Ocimum basilicum), bay laurel leaf (Laurus nobilis) and stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) ended up exposed to 2.5 to 150 mg m−3 sulfur mustard, 2.5 to 250 mg m−3 sarin, and .5 to 25 g m−3 chlorine fuel. The vapors of the chosen chemical substances ended up produced less than controlled situations in a dedicated set-up.

Following sample preparing and digestion, the samples were being analyzed by liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) and liquid chromatography high resolution tandem mass spectrometry (LC-HRMS/MS), respectively.

In the circumstance of chlorine exposure, it was uncovered that 3-chloro- and 3,5-dichlorotyrosine adducts were being shaped. As a result of sarin exposure, the o-isopropyl methylphosphonic acid adduct to tyrosine could be analyzed, and soon after sulfur mustard exposure the N1- and N3-HETE-histidine adducts ended up discovered.

The lowest vapor exposure stages for which these plant adducts could be detected, ended up 2.5 mg m−3 for sarin, 50 mg m−3 for chlorine and 12.5 mg m−3 for sulfur mustard. Furthermore, protein adducts next a liquid exposure of only 2 nmol Novichock A-234, .4 nmol sarin and .2 nmol sulfur mustard could still be noticed.

For each vapor and liquid publicity, the amount of adduct shaped elevated with the level of publicity. In all instances artificial reference criteria had been employed for unambiguous identification.

The window of opportunity for investigation of agent exposure by way of the analysis of plant product was located to be remarkably extended. Even 3 months right after the precise exposure, the biomarkers could even now be detected in the dwelling crops, as very well as in dried leaves. An critical reward of the recent method is that a fairly straightforward and generic sample work-up method can be used for all brokers studied.

In conclusion, the offered get the job done obviously demonstrates the probability of analyzing chemical warfare agent biomarkers in crops, which is helpful for forensic reconstructions, including the investigation into alleged use in conflict spots.

Supply: College of Amsterdam


Supply backlink Recent research has bolstered the claim that chemical weapons utilization is nothing new to the modern world. The practice can be traced as far back as 4800 years when evidence suggests plants were used in ancient warfare.

In a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), researchers analyzed traces of copper, tin and bronze particles in the leaves of plants that lived about 3200 years ago. These elements were found to have accumulated in a way that is consistent with chemical weapons usage.

In addition to the accumulation of these metals in the leaves, the analysis showed that the plants located near the site of the now-modern city of Megiddo, Israel (which is also known as Tel Megiddo) suffered from damage from high temperatures, likely caused by sulfur-based compounds known to be used in ancient warfare.

The researchers behind the study concluded that this evidence suggests chemical weapons were used by the ancient armies at the Battle of Megiddo, and that this could be one of the first documented uses of chemical weapons.

Until now, it was difficult to ascertain whether the chemical weapons used in ancient warfare were similar to modern ones. However, this study provides evidence that what was used at Megiddo was indeed chemically based and just as lethal as today’s weapons.

The research shows that today’s chemical weapons use could be part of an evolution in warfare technology that dates far back in time. It also suggests that chemical weapons utilization is a common strategy used by various civilizations throughout history.

It is clear that further research on the usage of chemical weapons in ancient warfare is needed in order to learn more about their applicability and the strategies utilized by different civilizations. The findings from this study also highlight the importance of plants in uncovering even long-forgotten practices.