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expert reaction to reports that Yulia Skripal is no longer in a critical condition and is improving rapidly in hospital

The media is reporting that Yulia Skripal, who was poisoned with a nerve agent along with her father, is no longer in a critical condition.


Dr Chris Morris, Medical Toxicology Centre, Newcastle University, said:

“Treatment of nerve agent poisoning typically aims to support the individual affected and prevent the major changes caused by high levels of nerve agent exposure, which are reduced breathing, cardiac arrest and seizures. If someone has been exposed to a nerve agent then maintaining heart rate and breathing is essential to reduce any heart and brain damage due to lack of oxygen. In this case, the prompt medical attention by the clinician and the emergency services who initially cared for the Skripals will have helped reduce or perhaps eliminate some of the major harm caused by nerve agent exposure. Further emergency care in preventing seizures will have again helped prevent any significant damage.

“The hospital care team, probably by placing the patients under heavy sedation or perhaps in an induced coma, will have been aiming to reduce any longer term effects while the nerve agent is steadily eliminated from the body. Heavy sedation would have had the effect of stopping the nerve cells firing very rapidly and becoming damaged, which is one of the changes caused by nerve agents. This might also have the effect of reducing or eliminating one specific effect of certain nerve agents which is to cause longer term nerve damage, a syndrome call organophosphate induced delayed neuropathy (OPIDN).

“The rapid response initially to this emergency by those first on the scene and the high level of support given by the hospital care team will undoubtedly have led to the reported good recovery. It is possible that lower levels of exposure to the nerve agent in this specific case is why recovery has been slightly quicker.”


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