Developing effective countermeasures against acute hydrogen sulfide intoxication: challenges and limitations

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Hydrogen sulfide (H2S) is a chemical hazard in the gas and farming industry. As it is easy to manufacture from common chemicals, it has also become a method of suicide. H2S exerts its toxicity through its high affinity with metalloproteins, such as cytochromecoxidase and possibly via its interactions with cysteine residues of various proteins. The latter was recently proposed to acutely alter ion channels with critical implications for cardiac and brain functions. Indeed, during severe H2S intoxication, a coma, associated with a reduction in cardiac contractility, develops within minutes or even seconds leading to death by complete electromechanical dissociation of the heart. In addition, long-term neurological deficits can develop owing to the direct toxicity of H2S on neurons combined with the consequences of a prolonged apnea and circulatory failure. Here, we review the challenges impeding efforts to offer an effective treatment against H2S intoxication using agents that trap free H2S, and present novel pharmacological approaches aimed at correcting some of the most harmful consequences of H2S intoxication.

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