Arsphenamine, also known as Salvarsan and 606, is a drug that was used to treat syphilis and trypanosomiasis. It was the first modern chemotherapeutic agent.


Sahachiro Hata discovered the anti-syphilitic activity of this compound in 1908 in the laboratory of Paul Ehrlich, during a survey of hundreds of newly synthesized organic arsenical compounds. Ehrlich had theorized that by screening many compounds a drug could be discovered with anti-microbial activity. Ehrlich's team began their search for such a "magic bullet" among chemical derivatives of the dangerously toxic drug atoxyl. This was the first organized team effort to optimize the biological activity of a lead compound through systematic chemical modifications, the basis for nearly all modern pharmaceutical research.

Arsphenamine was marketed under the trade name "Salvarsan" in 1910. It was also called "606",cite web |url= |title=Chemical & Engineering News: Top Pharmaceuticals: Salvarsan |accessdate=2007-08-25 |format= |work=] because it was the 606th compound synthesized for testing [In Germany it was the practice to designate compounds by their development number. Another compound known commonly in Germany by its number is Parathion, which was the 605th compound to be developed in search for insecticide. It is commonly known as E605 (E stands for Entwicklungsnummer (German for "development number")] . Salvarsan was the first organic anti-syphillitic, and a great improvement over the inorganic mercury compounds that had been used previously. A more soluble (but slightly less effective) arsenical compound, Neosalvarsan, ("neoarsphenamine"), became available in 1912. These arsenical compounds came with considerable risk of side effects, and they were supplanted as treatments for syphilis in the 1940s by penicillin.

The bacterium that causes syphilis is a spirochete, "Treponema pallidum". Arsphenamine is not toxic to spirochetes until it has been converted to an active form by the body.

After leaving Erlich's laboratory, Hata continued parallel investigation of the new medicine in Japan. [Izumi, Yoshio; and Isozumi, Kazuo. (2001). [ Modern Japanese medical history and the European influence.] "Keio Journal of Medicine" 50 (2), 91-99. PMID 11450598.]


The structure was believed to feature an As=As bond. However, in 2005, it was shown to be a mixture of the cyclic trimer and a pentamer. [cite web |url= | |accessdate=2007-08-25 |format= |work=] cite journal |author=Lloyd NC, Morgan HW, Nicholson BK, Ronimus RS |title=The composition of Ehrlich's salvarsan: resolution of a century-old debate |journal=Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. Engl. |volume=44 |issue=6 |pages=941–4 |year=2005 |pmid=15624113 |doi=10.1002/anie.200461471] ] The revised structure features As-As single bonds, not double bonds.

In History

Vladimir Lenin was treated by salvarsan before his death which supports the hypothesis that he died from syphilis [ [ 96: Report: Syphilis Killed Lenin | Infectious Diseases | DISCOVER Magazine ] ] .

ee also

*"Dr. Ehrlich's Magic Bullet" a 1940 movie released by Warner Brothers starring Edward G. Robinson as Ehrlich.
*"Out of Africa," 1937 novel and basis for a 1985 movie.


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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Arsphenamine — Arsphénamine Arsphénamine Général Synonymes Salvarsan 606 No CAS …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Arsphénamine — Général Nom IUPAC 2 amino 4 (3 amino 4 hydroxyphényl)arsanylidènearsanylphénol hydrochloride Synonymes …   Wikipédia en Français

  • arsphenamine — [ärs fen′ə mēn΄, ärs fen′əmin΄] n. [ ARS(ENIC) + PHEN(YL) + AMINE] a yellowish arsenical powder, [OH·C6H3 (NH2·HCl)·As] 2, formerly used in treating syphilis …   English World dictionary

  • arsphenamine — noun Etymology: International Scientific Vocabulary arsenic + phenamine Date: 1917 a light yellow toxic hygroscopic powder C12Cl2H14As2N2O2•2H2O formerly used in the treatment especially of syphilis and yaws …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • arsphenamine — /ahrs fen euh meen , min/, n. Pharm. a yellow, crystalline powder, C12H12N2O2As2·2HCl·2H2O, formerly used to treat diseases caused by spirochete organisms, esp. syphilis and trench mouth: first known as 606. [1915 20; ARS(ENIC) + PHEN(YL) +… …   Universalium

  • arsphenamine — noun /ɑːsˈfɛnəmaɪn,ɑːsˈfɛnəmiːn/ A phenolic amine derivative of arsenic that was used to treat syphilis (under the trade name of Salvarsan) …   Wiktionary

  • arsphenamine — Formerly used in the treatment of syphilis, yaws, and some other diseases of protozoan origin, after neutralization with NaOH. The synthesis of a. in 1907 and the demonstration of its usefulness as a therapeutic agent by Paul Ehrlich and co… …   Medical dictionary

  • arsphenamine — n. drug formerly used to fight syphilis …   English contemporary dictionary

  • arsphenamine — [α:s fɛnəmi:n, ɪn] noun Medicine a synthetic organic arsenic compound formerly used to treat syphilis …   English new terms dictionary

  • arsphenamine — ars·phen·a·mine …   English syllables

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