Gulf War Syndrome: A Real Disease? If So, What Causes It?

VA study doubts Gulf War syndrome

By ANDREW BRIDGES, Associated Press Writer Tue Sep 12, 2:51 PM ET

WASHINGTON - The unexplained symptoms that afflict thousands of
Gulf War veterans don't constitute a single illness, a federally funded study concludes.

Even though U.S. and foreign veterans of the 1991 war report more symptoms of illness than do soldiers who didn't serve in the Persian Gulf, there is no such thing as Gulf War syndrome, according to the Veterans Affairs-sponsored report released Tuesday.

Nearly 30 percent of all those who served in the brief war have reported problems.

"There's no unique pattern of symptoms. Every pattern identified in Gulf War veterans also seems to exist in other veterans, though it is important to note the symptom rate is higher, and it is a serious issue," said Dr. Lynn Goldman, of Johns Hopkins University, who headed the Institute of Medicine committee that prepared the report.

The report did find evidence of an elevated risk of the rare nerve disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also called Lou Gehrig's disease, among Gulf War veterans. They also face an increased risk of anxiety disorders, depression and substance abuse, it said.

The VA contracted with the Institute of Medicine, part of the
National Academy of Sciences, to review scientific studies and probe the issue at the direction of Congress.
Department of Veterans Affairs spokesman Phil Budahn said the VA would not comment until it had a chance to study the report.

Tuesday's report is the latest in the important series, which the VA will rely on to determine whether Gulf War veterans are eligible for special disability benefits if they are found to suffer from illnesses that can be linked to their service.

Veterans can now claim those benefits only by making an undiagnosed illness claim, said Steve Robinson, a Gulf War Army veteran and government relations director for Veterans for America.

"They keep saying it over and over, every year. We know that — we know that there is no single thing that made veterans sick. We know this thing is likely a combination of various exposures," Robinson said in pushing for new studies he hopes will find what ails tens of thousands of his fellow vets.

However, the report's confirmation that Gulf War veterans are sicker may actually help them secure government benefits, said Shannon Middleton, assistant director of health policy for the American Legion.

A member of the Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses, also chartered by Congress, called the report the "first step" in cataloging the studies done on veterans of the conflict.

"But the most prevalent problems in Gulf War veterans are the multisymptom illness/Gulf War syndrome-type problems that still affect a sizable proportion of those who served in the war. I am disappointed that the IOM report does little to analyze what these studies collectively tell us about the nature and causes of these conditions," said Lea Steele, a Kansas State University epidemiologist who is the committee's scientific director.

Soldiers who served in the Persian Gulf following the Iraqi invasion of neighboring Kuwait in August 1990 have reported symptoms that include fatigue, memory loss, muscle and joint pain, rashes and difficulty sleeping. The variety of symptoms has complicated efforts to pinpoint their cause, according to the report.

Nearly 700,000 U.S. soldiers, along with troops from 34 other countries, took part in the Gulf War. Once in the region, those soldiers were exposed to a wide array of toxins and other potential health hazards, including smoke from hundreds of oil well fires, pesticides, depleted uranium ammunition and possibly the nerve agent sarin, released during the demolition of a munitions dump.

Inadequate screening of soldiers before deployment in the Gulf War, coupled with a lack of environmental monitoring during the conflict, have hindered efforts to determine whether exposure to those contaminants is linked to any illness, the report also notes.

For years, the government denied the mysterious illnesses were linked to the war. It now acknowledges that at least some were due to wartime service. The government is no longer pointing to stress as the likely reason, as some federally funded studies had suggested.


On the Net:

Institute of Medicine: ... ar_illness
Veterans Are Sicker Than Civilian Patients With The Same Medical Condition

Main Category: Cardiovascular / Cardiology News
Article Date: 16 Sep 2006 - 15:00pm (PDT)

Veterans undergoing a major vascular surgery procedure were sicker when compared to patients undergoing the same surgery at civilian hospitals, yet the veterans had about the same results, according to a Yale School of Medicine study in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons.

"Interestingly, the outcome in both groups that underwent carotid endarterectomy (CEA) was about the same," said senior author Alan Dardik, M.D., assistant professor of vascular surgery. The operation involves removing plaque from a patient's carotid artery, the main artery in the neck that brings blood to the brain.

Dardik said this is the first study to demonstrate that patients in the Veterans Administration (VA) system may have higher rates of co-morbidity, or diseases in addition to the overriding problem, compared to similar patients in the general population. Increased co-morbidity typically influences the results of surgical procedures-usually with a worse outcome for the patient.

"The results of this study suggest that patients undergoing vascular surgery at the VA may form a higher risk population than patients receiving care in non-VA hospitals," he said. "But despite the increased risk, this study also shows that these high-risk patients can undergo CEA safely."

The study looked at 7,089 CEAs performed in 37 Connecticut hospitals over five years. Of the total, 140 were performed at the VA Connecticut Healthcare System. Patients at the VA had higher rates of incidence of hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, and kidney disease, as well as a higher rate of symptoms from their carotid disease.

"We believe the most interesting observation in our study is that differences exist between VA patients and the general population," he said. "Because our study was not designed to identify underlying reasons for these differences, it is unclear why VA patients have more severe disease than other patients in the state."

Dardik said that additional studies comparing VA patients to non-VA patients, using comparable reporting standards, are needed to understand the factors contributing to the severity of illness in veterans.


Co-authors include Jeffrey Weiss, M.D., Patrica Dumas, Charles Cha, M.D., and Richard Gusberg, M.D., of Yale.

Journal of the American College of Surgeons 203: 277-282 (September, 2006)

Contact: Jacqueline Weaver

Yale News Releases are available via the World Wide Web at ... wsid=51694
Real Disease

Nobody would seriously doubt that this is a real group of conditions. Governments are using the diverse nature of the symptoms as a smokescreen. "Syndrome" is the wrong word because the Gulf War illnesses come in various forms.

The symptoms are well documented. Most likely causes include the use of NAPS - pills designed to acustom the body to deadly nerve agents - and vaccines for diseases like anthrax as well as the effects of exposure to depleted uranium: ... &start=465

Any one of these could potentially cause problems for some people but in combination with eachother and with the addition of adrenaline and stress of course problems are going to arise (adrenaline, for exampe, makes some substances pass more easily into the brain).
Re: Real Disease

oilwar said:
Syndrome" is the wrong word because the Gulf War illnesses come in various forms.

I disagree. Syndrome is exactly the correct word to describe a diagnosis when a number of possible primary causes give rise to the same combination of symptoms and signs.
I disagree. Syndrome is exactly the correct word to describe a diagnosis when a number of possible primary causes give rise to the same combination of symptoms and signs.

Hey up mate

In your opinion what things have contributed to gulf war syndrome ?
techybloke666 said:
I disagree. Syndrome is exactly the correct word to describe a diagnosis when a number of possible primary causes give rise to the same combination of symptoms and signs.

Hey up mate

In your opinion what things have contributed to gulf war syndrome ?

IMHO there are many possible contributing factors that might cause long term symptoms that might be grouped under the term Gulf War Syndrome.

Off the top of my head:

* Inhalation of residue from burning oil
* Any number of COSHH controlled substances being used without proper precautions due to pressing circumstances
* Heat-related illness
* Reaction to the cocktail of extra vaccinations/innoculations we were given prior to embarkation
* Etc
Army Personnel Tested For Depleted Uranium
Main Category: Radiology / Nuclear Medicine News
Article Date: 09 Mar 2007 - 22:00 PST

A test recently used by the UK government's Independent Depleted Uranium Oversight Board to detect exposure to UK troops by depleted uranium (DU) during the 1991 Gulf Conflict was developed by a team led by a University of Leicester geologist.

Randall Parrish, Professor of Isotope Geology, developed the test with Postdoctoral Fellow Dr Axel Gerdes, who now works at the University of Frankfurt, Germany, and his colleague Matt Horstwood at the British Geological Survey, using advanced mass spectrometry.

Prof Parrish's team has tested more than 350 individuals as part of the programme, with the result that none so far tested had any demonstrable DU exposure resulting from their participation in the 1991 Gulf Conflict, though the extent of actual initial exposure of tested individuals to DU is unknown.

Depleted uranium (DU) is a by-product from the manufacture of enriched uranium, used for fuel in nuclear reactors or in weapons. It is 60 per cent as radioactive as natural uranium.

Because of its hardness, it has been used in engineering projects, as well as in the construction of military tanks and anti-tank weapons, such as those used in the 1991 Gulf War, in Bosnia in 1994-5, Kosovo in 1999 and in the latest conflict in Iraq.

While DU weapons can reduce casualties amongst the forces using them, there may be long-term risks to the health of those exposed to them, either through shrapnel wounds or inhalation, and risks, also, to the environment.

The test was designed to detect after 15 years even a modest exposure to DU, on the basis of accepted knowledge about the retention and solubility of DU in the human body. The test is applicable even to those who excrete extremely low levels of uranium in urine.

Professor Parrish's and his colleagues' work, undertaken to help in the planning of the UK DU testing programme, explored the sensitivity and accuracy of urine tests to measure uranium concentrations and isotope ratios.

The testing programme was set up in 2001, to investigate concerns amongst UK Service personnel from the Balkans and the 1991 Gulf War, following media coverage about Depleted Uranium.

Professor Parrish commented: "Dr Gerdes and I continue to collaborate on this test, which is by far the most sensitive and accurate of all uranium isotope test for urine worldwide. It uses multiple isotopes to ascertain the extent of contamination.

"Our facility has used this test in the monitoring of more than 400 UK veterans of the 1991 Gulf War, under the testing programme administered by the Depleted Uranium Oversight Board over the past two and a half years • a testing programme that is nearly finished."


Contact: Randall Parrish
University of Leicester ... wsid=64598
Mental Disorders Persist Among Gulf War Veterans 10 Years Later
Main Category: Psychology / Psychiatry News
Article Date: 18 May 2007 - 1:00 PDT
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A new study from the USA has found that deployment in the Gulf War was associated with increased levels of mental disorders, psychological symptoms, and a lower quality of life - beginning during the war and persisting at a lower rate 10 years later.

Around 700,000 US military personnel were deployed to the Middle East during the 1991 Persian Gulf War. These veterans reported greater psychological symptoms immediately after the war than veterans who were not sent to the Gulf.

The National Health Survey of Gulf War Era Veterans and Their Families was a study designed to collect information at several time points to assess the prevalence of medical and psychological conditions in both deployed and non-deployed veterans.

Postal and telephone surveys were conducted among 15,000 deployed veterans and 15,000 non-deployed veterans, beginning in 1995.

The current study, published in the May issue of the British Journal of Psychiatry, evaluated a sub-set of these veterans, using face-to-face psychological examinations conducted between 1998 and 2001. Mental disorders were diagnosed using structural clinical interviews, and standard questionnaires assessed psychological symptoms and quality of life.

Both the deployed and the non-deployed veteran groups were 78% male. The deployed group were nearly 2 years younger than the non-deployed group, were more likely to be African-American, had lower levels of education and were less likely to be married or officers.

It was found that the prevalence of onset of mental disorders at the time of the war was significantly higher among deployed compared with non-deployed veterans.

In particular, deployed veterans had an increased incidence of depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and non-PTSD anxiety disorders.

10 years later, these cases of depression and non-PTSD anxiety disorders remained significantly more prevalent among deployed compared with non-deployed veterans. PTSD was over 3 times more prevalent among deployed veterans.

Depression was less likely to improve among deployed than non-deployed veterans, although the levels of antidepressant use, and the severity of depression in the 2 groups were similar.

Depressed deployed veterans were nearly twice as likely as depressed non-deployed veterans to have additional mental disorders at the time of the war, which could explain the reduced likelihood that depression would improve in the deployed veterans group. Lower levels of education in the deployed group may also have contributed to their continued depression compared with the non-deployed group.

The authors of the study comment that the findings indicate that deployment had a range of adverse effects on both health-related and non-health-related quality of life 10 years later.

The results also suggest that pre-existing mental disorders represent an individual vulnerability factor for the development of mental disorders during war deployment.

Although continued depression in deployed veterans appeared partially resistant to improvement despite comparable levels of medication in the 2 groups, the authors conclude that anxiety disorders might possibly improve further with greater use of medication.

Overall, the findings point to the need for adequate follow-up mental healthcare for veterans with persistent mental illnesses following major military deployments.

Toomey R, Kang HK, Karlinsky J, Baker DG, Vasterling JJ, Alpern R, Reda DJ, Henderson WG, Murphy FM and Eisen SA (2007)
"Mental health of US Gulf War veterans 10 years after the war"
British Journal of Psychiatry, 190, 385-393. ... wsid=71314
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A report released on Monday concluded that Gulf War syndrome is a legitimate illness suffered by more than 175,000 U.S. war veterans who were exposed to chemical toxins in the 1991 Gulf War.

The congressionally mandated report could help veterans who have battled the government for treatment of a wide range of unexplained neurological illnesses, from brain cancer to multiple sclerosis.

The Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses concluded that Gulf War illness is a physical condition distinct from the mental 'shell shock' suffered by veterans in other wars. Some earlier studies had concluded it was not a distinct illness. 'Scientific evidence leaves no question that Gulf War illness is a real condition with real causes and serious consequences for affected veterans,' said the committee, which has been looking into the problem since 2002.

The committee, composed of independent scientists and veterans, said Congress should boost funding for research on Gulf War veterans' health to at least $60 million per year. 'This is a national obligation, made especially urgent by the many years that Gulf War veterans have waited for answers and assistance,' the committee said.

Gulf War illness affects at least one-fourth of the 700,000 U.S. troops who served in the 1991 effort to drive Iraq out of Kuwait, or between 175,000 and 210,000 veterans in all, the report found. Few have seen their symptoms improve over the past 17 years, the report said.

Symptoms include persistent headaches, widespread pain, cognitive difficulties, unexplained fatigue, skin rashes, chronic diarrhea and digestive and respiratory problems. Many Gulf War veterans suffering these symptoms say they were met with skepticism when seeking treatment. 'Today's report brings to a close one of the darkest chapters of the 1991 Gulf War, and that is the legacy of Gulf War illness. For those who ever doubted that Gulf War veterans are ill, this report is definitive and exhaustive,' said Anthony Hardie, a Gulf War veteran from Madison, Wisconsin.

Hardie was a 23-year-old sergeant at the time of the conflict. Today he works in Wisconsin's Veterans Affairs Department and suffers a host of ailments, including respiratory problems, fatigue and chronic widespread pain. 'The truth will prevail,' said Adrian Atizado, assistant legislative director of the Disabled American Veterans, an advocacy group that represents 1.4 million veterans from the various conflicts in which the United States has fought. 'One can argue with merit that the federal government did hold back progress in allowing Gulf War veterans to seek health care and financial benefits,' he said. 'We hope now there will be a greater emphasis on finding effective treatments.' The panel found two possible causes: a drug given to troops to protect against nerve gas, known as pyridostigmine bromide, and pesticides that were used heavily during the war.

The panel said other possible causes could not be ruled out, including extensive exposure to smoke from oil-well fires and low-level exposure to sarin gas when captured Iraqi stocks were destroyed.

The U.S. government has spent roughly $440 million on Gulf War health research since 1994, but spending has declined in recent years and often is not focused on improving veterans' health, the committee said. ... HU20081117
Gulf war illness not in veterans' heads but in their mitochondria
Date: March 27, 2014

There are similarities between patients with mitochondrial dysfunction and those suffering from Gulf War illness: varying patterns of symptoms and severity among individuals; different latency periods across symptoms, or times when symptoms first appear; routine blood tests that appear normal.
Credit: © veneratio / Fotolia

Researchers at the UC San Diego School of Medicine have demonstrated for the first time that veterans of the 1990-91 Persian Gulf War who suffer from "Gulf War illness" have impaired function of mitochondria -- the energy powerhouses of cells.

The findings, published in the March 27, 2014 issue of PLOS ONE, could help lead to new treatments benefitting affected individuals -- and to new ways of protecting servicepersons (and civilians) from similar problems in the future, said principal investigator Beatrice A. Golomb MD, PhD, professor of medicine.

Golomb, with associate Hayley Koslik and Gavin Hamilton, PhD, a research scientist and magnetic resonance physicist, used the imaging technology to compare Gulf War veterans with diagnosed Gulf War illness to healthy controls. Cases were matched by age, sex and ethnicity.

The technique used -- 31-phosphorus magnetic resonance spectroscopy or 31P-MRS -- reveals amounts of phosphorus-containing compounds in cells. Such compounds are important for cell energy production, in particular phosphocreatine or PCr, which declines in muscle cells during exercise. PCr recovery takes longer when mitochondrial function is impaired, and delayed recovery is recognized as a robust marker of mitochondrial dysfunction.

Affected Gulf War veterans displayed significantly delayed PCr recovery after an exercise challenge. In fact, said Golomb, there was almost no overlap in the recovery times of Gulf War illness veterans compared to controls: All but one control participant had a recovery time-constant clustered under 31 seconds. In contrast, all but one Gulf Illness veteran had a recovery time-constant exceeding 35 seconds, with times ranging as high as 70 seconds.

There were 14 participants in the study: seven Gulf War illness cases and seven matching controls. Golomb notes that the use of 1:1 matching markedly improves statistical "power," allowing a smaller sample size. The separation between the two groups was "visibly striking, and the large average difference was statistically significant," she said.

Golomb noted that impaired mitochondrial function accounts for numerous features of Gulf War illness, including symptoms that have been viewed as perplexing or paradoxical.

"The classic presentation for mitochondrial illness involves multiple symptoms spanning many domains, similar to what we see in Gulf War illness. These classically include fatigue, cognitive and other brain-related challenges, muscle problems and exercise intolerance, with neurological and gastrointestinal problems also common."

There are other similarities between patients with mitochondrial dysfunction and those suffering from Gulf War illness: Additional symptoms appear in smaller subsets of patients; varying patterns of symptoms and severity among individuals; different latency periods across symptoms, or times when symptoms first appear; routine blood tests that appear normal.

"Some have sought to ascribe Gulf War illness to stress," said Golomb, "but stress has proven not to be an independent predictor of the condition. On the other hand, Gulf veterans are known to have been widely exposed to acetylcholinesterase inhibitors, a chemical class found in organophosphate and carbamate pesticides, nerve gas and nerve gas pre-treatment pills given to troops.

"These inhibitors have known mitochondrial toxicity and generally show the strongest and most consistent relationship to predicting Gulf War illness. Mitochondrial problems account for which exposures relate to Gulf War illness, which symptoms predominate, how Gulf War illness symptoms manifest themselves, what objective tests have been altered, and why routine blood tests have not been useful."
Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of California, San Diego Health Sciences. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Journal Reference:

Hayley J. Koslik, Gavin Hamilton, Beatrice A. Golomb. Mitochondrial Dysfunction in Gulf War Illness Revealed by 31Phosphorus Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy: A Case-Control Study. PLoS ONE, 2014; 9 (3): e92887 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0092887
Cite This Page:

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University of California, San Diego Health Sciences. "Gulf war illness not in veterans' heads but in their mitochondria." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 March 2014. <>.
Interesting that this mostly forgotten subject has twice returned to my attention in recent days:

First, I chanced upon a roughly contemporaneous discussion of problem on an archived Art Bell show (after the war, but back when the issue was much more 'live').

The guest was Joyce Riley, who made semi-regular appearances on Coast to Coast AM to discuss this topic:

Search for "Gulf War" to isolate the five shows here: Ultimate Art Bell Collection/Shows/

Second, the theory that this supposed syndrome was caused by the use of an experimental anthrax vaccine is being invoked by some who are against the introduction of anti-Covid vaccine mandates in the U.S., particularly the enforcement of one for the military.

The argument runs that soldiers cannot refuse to be inoculated (or have likely pre-signed consent with enrolment), and the vaccine has yet to be proved safe.

I was quite interested in this subject first time around; with the spurious claims of current relevancy, I might revisit it.

One superficial point of similarity is that the cluster of disparate symptoms united under the moniker 'Gulf War Syndrome', is as wide or wider than the number of different symptoms the thrice-cursed COVID seems to throw up with the unpredictable interaction of its various strains with the vagaries of our individual biologies.
Interesting report here that GWS was attributable to low level doses of sarin gas, and susceptibility due to a certain gene.
Via BBC News:
The In House GP told me about this report - he'd heard it on the radio on the way home. I went looking for a report the following day but couldn't find one, it almost felt like a conspiracy! So I Googled it, found a write-up on Sciencedaily, and through that a link to the actual paper. This is yer boy:
Interesting read, but they did point out at the end that a lot of other potential factors were NOT taken into consideration.