British authorities on Wednesday said they knew "more about the substance" that felled a former Russian double agent, and what they revealed later in the day isn't good. In a case that's now being treated as attempted murder, authorities say Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were poisoned with an unspecified nerve agent that scientists have been able to identify. The Guardian reports that the count of those suffering substantially from exposure to it now stands at three; the police officer who first responded to the scene in Salisbury on Sunday is being described as "seriously ill," with his condition having worsened.
The Guardian notes that VX and sarin are the best known nerve agents, and the paper speaks to chemical weapons experts who say it would be "essentially impossible" for an amateur to make this at home. Says one, "This needs expertise and a special place to make it or you will kill yourself. It’s only a small amount, but you don’t make this in your kitchen." The BBC and AP offer primers on nerve agents, which enter the body as a liquid or gas, typically via mouth or nose, though the eyes and skin can also be entry points. Once ingested, they interfere with the nervous system's ability to communicate with the body's organs and can cause vomiting, paralysis, and death. The investigation is ongoing, and reportedly involves hundreds of officers. (Read more Sergei Skripal stories.)