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Gulf War Syndrome





An Overview

Gulf War Syndrome (GWS), which is also known as "Desert Storm Diseases" or simply "Gulf War Veterans Illnesses", is a collection of symptoms reported by veterans (and civilians like press and government employees) of the first Gulf war since August 1990. Veterans from every country that made up the Coalition forces have been affected; in the US alone more than 110,000 cases had been reported by 1999, according to official government sources. There is even a report relating to military personnel in Kansas developing flu-like symptoms and chemical sensitivities after handling archived documents returned from the Gulf (full text available here). In the UK, veterans of the 2003 conflict began reporting symptoms, identical to those reported by the first war, shortly after they returned from duty.

The symptoms reported by veterans include:

  • Fatigue
  • Persistent Headaches
  • Muscle Aches/Pains
  • Neurological Symptoms e.g. tingling and numbness in limbs
  • Cognitive Dysfunction - short term memory loss, poor concentration, inability to take in information
  • Mood and Sleep Disturbances - Depression, Anxiety, Insomnia.
  • Dermatological Symptoms - Skin Rashes, Unusual Hair loss.
  • Respiratory Symptoms - Persistent Coughing, Bronchitis, Asthma
  • Chemical Sensitivities
  • Gastrointestinal Symptoms - Diarrhea, Constipation, Nausea, Bloating.
  • Cardiovascular Symptoms
  • Menstrual Symptoms

You have probably noticed that these symptoms are remarkably similar to those attributed to chronic fatigue syndrome, multiple chemical sensitivities and other environmental illnesses. This similarity hasn't gone unnoticed which is why many people, including healthcare professionals and researchers, are coming to the conclusion that all these illnesses share common causes and etiologies. In 1997 the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in the US funded a study by the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey in an attempt to define the illness. In the study Gulf war syndrome was compared to chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, multiple chemical sensitivities and other similar illnesses to determine if the current definition for those illnesses could adequately describe Gulf war syndrome. The researchers are currently preparing manuscripts for publication, as of May 31st 2003 (see the full description here). With an institution of the CDC's caliber funding research into Gulf war syndrome, and it's link to the other illnesses discussed within this website, it is clear that this link is being taken seriously.


What Caused Gulf War Syndrome?

There were many factors present in the Gulf during the war that could have played a role in causing illness in those present at the time. It is likely that a combination of a number of these factors together is what led to the illness.

The potential causative factors include:

1. Infectious Diseases - A number of infectious agents were present in the Gulf but medical records generally show that they weren't a major problem for personnel due to extensive precautionary measures (1). Of cause many infectious agents may lie dormant without causing an acute illness. The most common infectious agents present were thought to be cutaneous leishmaniasis, travelers diarrhea, sandfly fever and malaria. One unique infectious disease has been linked to the Gulf war deployment: viscerotrophic leishmaniasis (1). This infectious disease has been found in 12 U.S. veterans but none of the other Coalition forces personnel.

There is substantial evidence for mycoplasma infection playing a role in veterans illnesses. Mycoplasma can be defined as the smallest organisms lacking cell walls that are capable of self-replication and can cause various diseases in humans. Although usually associated with respitory and urinary disease, mycoplasma are thought by a growing number of medical professionals to be responsible for a number of unexplained symptoms, especially chronic fatigue states. Mycoplasma fermentans has been found in the blood of gulf war veterans at a much higher rate than in the overall population (2, 3, 4).

In an article entitled 'Scientific Facts Versus Fiction About Mycoplasma', Aristo Vojdani, Ph.D., M.T. describes recent findings about Mycoplasma fermentans:

"Although mycoplasmas are recognized primarily as extracellular parasites or pathogens of mucosal surfaces, recent evidence suggests that certain species may invade the host cells.

The molecular and cellular bases for the invasion of M. fermentans from mucosal cells to the bloodstream and its colonization of blood remain unknown.

Also, it remains unclear whether M. fermentans infection of white blood cells is transient, intermittent or persistent. It is not clear how these stages influence any disease progression. The invasion of host blood cells by M. fermentans is due to inhibition of phagocytosis by a variety of mechanisms, including antiphagocytic proteins such as proteases, phospholipases and by oxygen radicals produced by mycoplasmas."

2. Biological Weapons - Exposure to biological warfare agents has been put forward as a possible causative factor in Gulf war syndrome. No evidence that such an agent was deployed has been found however. BW agents are also designed to kill rapidly in minute amounts and there were no reported fatalities that could be attributed to this. It should be noted however that Iraq was known to be experimenting with the use of anthrax and an organism responsible for gangrene (5). There is also the possibility that Iraq deployed biotoxins; toxins produced by living organisms such as bacteria. Endotoxins, those given off when a cell dies, can produce similar effects to chemical toxins/weapons and do not cause infectious disease as a living organism would.

3. Chemical Weapons - As with biological agents, chemical warfare agents have also been suggested. There is more concern here however as it is known that a number of Iraqi facilities containing chemical agents were hit during the air and ground offensives which could have led to low level exposure to Coalition troops. Sarin and Cyclosarin were detected 8 months after the war by a UN inspection team, for example. It is now widely accepted that Iraq had sizeable stockpiles of sarin which could be used in SCUD missile warheads for example. There have been a number of animal studies with subclinical levels of sarin to ascertain whether a possible low level exposure could cause long term injury and illness in veterans. A 2002 study on rats found that low level exposure to sarin for a period of 1 week caused significant suppression of the immune system (6). Other researchers have had similar findings regarding immune-suppression and also found that low dose sarin "resulted in brain alterations in densities of chlonergic receptor subtypes that may be associated with memory loss and cognitive dysfunction."(7) There is considerable ongoing research into possible CW exposures in all countries involved.



Top Gulf War Syndrome Articles:

Guts, Brains and Gulf Veterans - Professor Malcolm Hooper
Prevention of the Iraq War-Aassociated Sickness - Dr. Majid Ali
How Vaccinations Work - Dr. Philip F. Incao



Useful Books - In association with Amazon

The Irritable Heart: The Medical Mystery of the Gulf War

The Irritable Heart: The Medical Mystery of the Gulf War


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Gulf War Syndrome : Legacy of a Perfect War


Gulf War Syndrome : Legacy of a Perfect War


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