New Information about Gulf War Illness

FDA Issues Drug Warning; Science Links Brain Damage to Desert Storm. 

There were several press reports last week of significant interest to Gulf War Veterans.  The Army Times reports the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently toughened its warnings for Ciprofloxacin, or Cipro, saying the antibiotic can cause severe and sometimes permanent nerve damage.

During the 1990-1991 Gulf War, many U.S. troops were ordered to take Cipro to fight possible exposure to anthrax.  Many of these Veterans now have peripheral neuropathy, a type of nerve damage which manifests as tingling and numbness in limbs, especially hands and feet.

The recent FDA warning may explain some of the symptoms of Gulf War Illness, an illness which has afflicted more than 250,000 troops (approximately 25 percent) of those deployed to Southwest Asia during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.

Memory Problems

Meanwhile, WATE-TV in Knoxville, Tennessee reports on a new study from the journal Clinical Psychological Science that shows changes in the brains of Gulf War soldiers who have been exposed to chemical weapons and may provide insight into why they often report memory problems.

The co-author of the study, which appeared online Oct. 15 in the journal Clinical Psychological Science, is Bart Rypma, principal investigator at the Center for Brain Health at the University of Texas at Dallas.  Rypma said in a press release, “Although medical professionals have recognized the chronic and often disabling illness for almost two decades, brain changes that uniquely identify Gulf War Illness have been elusive until now.”

Texas Research Continues

Meanwhile, a story in the Dallas Morning News rightly pays homage to another of the study’s co-authors, Dr. Robert Haley, an epidemiologist at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas who’s spent much of his career researching Gulf War illness.   The article quotes Bergmann & Moore’s Paul Sullivan, a Gulf War veteran who said he hopes Haley’s research leads to funding for additional research on new drugs to help veterans cope with their condition.  “The scientific evidence is rock solid,” Sullivan said. “Veterans are sick.”

Haley, who is a hero to many Gulf War Veterans, has spent much of his career establishing the scientific links between Gulf War illness and toxic chemical exposures.

“Many of these veterans have been told that there is nothing wrong with them,” Haley told the Dallas Morning News in an interview last year. “Our hope is that the physicians treating our veterans will read this study and recognize the symptoms, and that this will lead to better treatments.”

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