Magazine article Insight on the News

Breakthrough on Gulf War Illness

Magazine article Insight on the News

Breakthrough on Gulf War Illness

Article excerpt

After a year of stonewalling by the DOD, a new study at the prestigious Tulane University Medical School confirms that victims of a mysterious sickness may have been poisoned.

It started with a telephone call nearly two years ago, a call with a question not yet fully answered: How did antibodies to a chemical compound called squalene get into the bloodstreams of sick soldiers who served overseas during the Persian Gulf War, and even of some whose service during that era never took them outside of the United States?

The sick soldiers had one thing in common -- they all had received a full complement of military immunizations. And with that in mind, laboratories contacted by Insight began searching for allied clues related to the so-called Gulf War Syndrome.

Now, after nearly 18 months of intensive study, checking and rechecking related data, the prestigious Tulane University Medical Center School of Medicine's department of microbiology and immunology, in New Orleans, has confirmed test results first reported by this magazine a year ago.

According to Tulane, antibodies to squalene indeed do appear in the bloodstreams of the sick veterans -- in fact, the sicker the veteran, the higher the level of such antibodies.

Tulane's final laboratory results are highly significant. Although squalene is a naturally occurring substance in the human body, associated with cholesterol, the presence of the antibodies strongly suggests that an outside antigen -- or medical cause -- is involved here. When Insight first reported the presence of the squalene antibodies, the Defense Department resisted the findings, suggesting that some human condition gone awry might explain them. Certainly that speculation no longer will do.

"Yes, it's pretty significant," says Russell B. Wilson, president of Autoimmune Technologies, LLC, a medical marketing and research firm in New Orleans hired by Tulane to publicize and market its groundbreaking research into squalene antibodies. "We're not saying we know how [the antibodies] got there [in the sick soldiers], but we are saying we have proof positive of an objective marker that they do exist."

Robert Garry, the widely respected lead scientist at Tulane's department of microbiology and immunology, whose peer-reviewed medical experiments led to the assay that confirms the presence of squalene antibodies, modestly describes his findings to Insight as important. "We can say for certain now that these antibodies do exist in sick soldiers we've tested," Garry says.

"How this plays into the illnesses of these patients will require more work, but certainly this is an important marker to begin conducting research," he adds. "We're not saying we know how or what caused the antibodies to appear, but we now can confirm they do exist and that further testing certainly is in order to find out why, because it would be extremely remote that such antibodies would appear as a result of natural causes."

Put another way, according to Wilson, himself a Ph.D. in cellular microbiology, it is unlikely these antibodies to squalene resulted from a naturally occurring cellular dysfunction in the human body. "The objective marker Tulane has discovered suggests other causes," Wilson says. "It suggests they were induced from an outside source."

And so the mystery deepens. From the beginning of Insight's investigation, the DOD has mustered statements from Secretary of Defense William Cohen down to the various surgeons general of the armed forces and the Veterans Administration and Walter Reed Army Medical Center denying any knowledge, let alone responsibility, for this presence of squalene antibodies. One reason for the nervousness at the Pentagon, as congressional investigators and top military brass privately have told this magazine, is that any linkage between the DOD and the discovery of the antibodies could suggest that some experimental vaccine was given to soldiers just before the war began in 1991. …

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