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U.S. soldiers walk down a trail in a war zone. One of them pulls out a hand-held electronic device and points it at a native plant. The readings on the device indicate the plant was exposed to nerve gas sometime in the last 48 hours, allowing the soldiers to don protective gear before they suffer a lethal dose. Although such a device does not exist, it's not as far-fetched as it may sound. As concerns grow over the threat of bioterrorism and weapons of mass destruction, university researchers are working on an early warning system -- the figurative canary in the mineshaft -- that could be as unobtrusive and ubiquitous as plants in a landscape.
A combination of chemicals given to protect Gulf War soldiers against deadly diseases and nerve gas may have inadvertently damaged their testes and sperm production, according to animal experiments at Duke University Medical Center. The new study could explain why some veterans have experienced infertility, sexual dysfunction, and other genitourinary symptoms, said Mohamed Abou Donia, Ph.D., a Duke pharmacologist.