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Exposed to radiation - now what?

Pedro Moura Pinheiro
via Flickr
A cooling tower at Chernobyl Nuclear Plant remains incomplete. Checkpoints at the plant still keep tourists away from the heaviest areas of radiation. The facility and the surrounding town still sport unsafe levels of radioactivity.

Most people probably don’t think about radiation poisoning like they do the flu, a cold, etc. You don’t just catch it by failing to sing the entire Happy Birthday song while washing your hands. Radiation exposure usually happens during cancer treatment or by exposure to a nuclear or dirty bomb explosion.

Even though the latter hasn't happened in the United States, sources for a story I'm working on think that kind of event could be only a matter of time. 

Currently, there is no cure for radiation sickness. A company in Buffalo is working on fixing that.

 Cleveland Biolabs has been working on a medicine that would successfully treat most cases of radiation sickness, known as CBLB502. It's currently under review from the FDA. It was just “Fast Track”-ed, which is an accelerated evaluation process for new medicines.

CBLC502 is different from current treatments. Radiation causes cell death. This drug aims to stop that proces from occurring. It works well in rats, mice and other rodents, so says Cleveland Biolabs.

Keep your eyes peeled for a full-blown story on this topic in the next few days. But for now, let's take a look at existing ways to deal with radiation according to the National Institutes of Health.

  1. With a mild exposure it might be best to take medicines to deal with side effects, like nausea, diarrhea, vomiting and weakness.
  2. Blood transfusions have been employed with some success, depending on the level of exposure.
  3. The FDA has approved Radiogardase, which works to rid the body of radioactive substances.
  4. Bone marrow transplants could be called upon in cases of high exposure.
  5. Taking a shower. Removal of clothing and a washing limits further contamination.

As you can see, there's not that many options. But then again, radiation exposure, outside of cancer treatment settings, is extremely rare. But if a terrorist attack occurs that exposes a large number of people to radiation, effective treatments will be needed. The Department of Defense has contacted Cleveland Biolabs about the possible stockpiling of CBLB502 if the drug is approved by the FDA. 


WBFO/Western New York reporter for the Innovation Trail.