||Gulf War Illness Update By Paul M. Rodriguez
A peer-reviewed article by Tulane University
researchers confirming the presence of squalene in the blood of gulf-war veterans has
spurred Congress to demand answers from the Pentagon.
At least 10 senior members of Congress recently sent
Defense Secretary William Cohen a stern letter about the Pentagons failure to take
seriously a newly discovered bio-marker that may help explain the mysterious illness known
as gulf-war syndrome, or GWS. This latest escalation of tension between Congress and the
Department of Defense, or DOD, follows news that the Department of Microbiology at the
Tulane School of Medicine in New Orleans has published in the February issue of
Experimental and Molecular Pathology a groundbreaking study on the discovery of exotic
antibodies to a substance called squalene that appear only in troops of the gulf-war era
both those who served overseas and those who never left the United States.
Immunologist Robert F. Garry, leader of the
Tulane study group, and Tennessee microbiologist Pamela Asa reported in their
peer-reviewed article that they found the squalene antibodies only in the blood of sick
soldiers who had been given the full complement of immunizations (see Breakthrough
on Gulf War Illness, April 19, 1999). The speculation for more than two years has
been that the troops were given an experimental immunization that contained an adjuvant
with squalene. The DOD repeatedly denied this despite compelling circumstantial evidence
to the contrary.
Squalene, which is found naturally in the human
body and is believed to be involved with creation of cholesterol, is considered by DOD
scientists and the National Institutes of Health to be a potentially promising adjuvant to
boost the effectiveness of some medicines. It is being tested experimentally in potential
anti-HIV, antimalaria and antianthrax immuniza-tions by military and civilian Pentagon
Because of extreme side effects strikingly
similar to the autoimmune symptoms complained of by gulf-war veterans, the Food and Drug
Administration, or FDA, has limited squalenes use on humans to experimental research
and then only in highly controlled tests approved by the FDA under the rules im-posed on
investigational new drugs, or INDs. The DOD has several such INDs, with collaborators
working experimentally on squalene-related drugs. However, Pentagon brass and spokesmen
initially denied this when Insight began asking questions about a correlation between the
dysfunctions soldiers were experiencing and the previously unknown military tests using
the squalene adjuvants.
There is sure to be a furor following the latest
round of congressional criticism of the Pentagon and Cohen in particular for
refusal to work with Tulane as directed last year by Congress in an appropriations bill
(see news alert!, Dec. 13, 1999).
The position of DOD has been that, since it
never used squalene in any inoculation administered to gulf-war era veterans, it would be
a waste of time to pursue what its spokesmen have called junk science by
Tulane. The DOD also has said that because the Garry-Asa research had not yet been
peer-reviewed, it was suspect.
Now that one of the bibles in molecular medicine
has published and peer-reviewed the Tulane research, Republican Rep. Jack Metcalf of
Washington state and nine other leading congressmen have called on Cohen to get off his
duff. We will insist that DOD do an unbiased analysis of this study, Metcalf
tells Insight. He says that, while DOD claims to have begun internal reviews of the issue,
that action is insufficient and unacceptable. It does not constitute the kind of
science that those who sacrificed for this nation deserve, Metcalf says.
By press time DOD had no immediate reply.