Survey of symptoms following intake of pyridostigmine during the Persian Gulf war

Y. Sharabi*, Y. L. Danon, H. Berkenstadt, S. Almog, A. Mimouni-Bloch, A. Zisman, S. Dani, J. Atsmon

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Pyridostigmine bromide, a reversible inhibitor of acetylcholinesterase (AChE), is effectively used as a pre-treatment to organophosphate intoxication. Previous studies have shown that an oral dose of 30 mg twice a day produces a sufficient inhibition of the enzyme activity(20-40%) without causing any significant adverse effect. During the Persian Gulf war pyridostigmine was taken for the first time under a chemical warfare threat. We searched for symptoms and complaints that may be related to the medication. Our survey included 213 soldiers who completed a questionnaire regarding possible symptoms and their severity. AChE inhibition level was compared between groups of soldiers with and without complaints. The most frequent symptoms were nonspecific and included dry mouth, general malaise, fatigue and weakness. Typical effects, such as nausea, abdominal pain, frequent urination and rhinorrhea, were infrequent. The severity of the symptoms was generally mild. The symptoms appeared around 1.6 h after taking the medication and recurred after each intake. No correlation was found between levels of cholinesterase and type or severity of complaints. Anxiety, which accompanies wartime, may have contributed to the appearance of significant symptoms. Further investigations concerning the effects of pyridostigmine ingestion under stressful conditions are warranted.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)656-658
Number of pages3
JournalIsrael Journal of Medical Sciences
Issue number11-12
StatePublished - 1991
Externally publishedYes


  • Acetylcholinesterase inhibition
  • Adverse effects
  • Anxiety
  • Carbamates
  • Chemical warfare
  • Persian gulf war
  • Pyridostigmine


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