2003 CPEO Military List Archive

From: CPEO Moderator <cpeo@cpeo.org>
Date: 23 Sep 2003 17:13:26 -0000
Reply: cpeo-military
Subject: [CPEO-MEF] Studies tie Lou Gehrig's disease to Gulf War vets
Studies tie Lou Gehrig's disease to Gulf War vets
By Rita Rubin
September 23, 2003

When Maj. Michael Donnelly was diagnosed with a fatal neurological
disorder at 36, he suspected it had to do with flying F-16s in the
Persian Gulf War.

Donnelly became committed to getting his story out. His forums ranged
from Larry King Live to Falcon's Cry, a book he published in late 1998.
He became perhaps the best-known ALS patient since British physicist
Stephen Hawking, who has defied all odds by living with the disease for
40 years.

ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, is more commonly called Lou
Gehrig's disease for the New York Yankees baseball legend who died of it
in 1941 at age 37.

In December 2001, Donnelly and preliminary research findings persuaded
Veterans Affairs Secretary Anthony Principi that ALS was a
service-connected disease in Gulf War veterans. The VA began providing
benefits to those affected.

It was a controversial decision because the research linking Gulf War
service to an increased risk of ALS had never received the scientific
world's imprimatur: publication in a peer-reviewed journal.

Until now.

Nearly two years after Principi's decision and more than seven years
after Donnelly's diagnosis, two separate studies today in the journal
Neurology conclude that Gulf War veterans are twice as likely to develop
ALS as the general public. The reasons are not clear. And although some
scientists still question the Gulf War-ALS link, others suspect that
veterans of that conflict also might be at a higher risk for other
neurological disorders, such as multiple sclerosis or Parkinson's

Robert Haley, author of one of the studies, calls Neurology editor
Robert Griggs an "academic hero" for publishing the research. After he
submitted his study to the journal two years ago, "it got blistering
criticism from neurologists," says Haley, an epidemiologist and
internist at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at
Dallas. "But then he allowed me to respond to the critics, and then he
put it out for review again."

After Haley conducted his research, which was financed by the Perot
Foundation, the Department of Defense and the VA paid for another study,
which also appears in Neurology.

Fortunately, ALS is so rare that few veterans of the first Gulf War will
ever develop it. In the general U.S. population, an average of one or
two people per 100,000 are diagnosed each year.

Nearly 700,000 Americans served in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab
Emirates, Turkey or on the Red Sea during the Gulf War, which roughly
spanned the last half of 1990 and the first half of 1991.For its study,
the VA identified 40 veterans diagnosed with ALS after serving in the
Persian Gulf. Since the study ended in 2001, "I do know additional cases
have been found," says lead author Ronnie Horner, a former VA researcher
who is now an epidemiologist at the National Institute of Neurological
Disorders and Stroke.

This article can be viewed at:

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