Wednesday, August 23, 2006
| This is one of a series of
"continuing discussions" on this web page. The subject is too large for VIEW and
MAIL, and will probably continue for months. I'll update as I find out anything, or get
mail on the subject.
To comment on this subject, send mail with the words gulf war syndrome (case doesn't matter) in the heading. Example: You're a dolt gulf war syndrome and an idiot...
Much of the material in the opening of this was drawn from the April 19 issue of INSIGHT Magazine, a Washington Times Publication, Breakthrough On Gulf War Illness by Paul Rodriguez, and I urge you to find the original and read it as it has much detail I couldn't include. URL to Original Article
(Note: The Washington Times is owned by the Moon organization, but the editor has never been much associated with any of Moon's religious activities. General Graham used to say that he found the Washington Times reliable, but just as you don't read The Christian Science Monitor for medial news, you don't read the Washington Times for news about Korea...)
Let me add one more thing: I have no stake in this at all, other than being somewhat incensed to find that DOD was sending blood samples from Walter Reed to Johns Hopkins who forwarded them to Tulane, with all of them looking for AIDS indicators, while they were telling the world that there was not such thing. I sure would like to believe this is all the ravings of some random nuts. I fear there is more to it than that.
May 27, 1999 : Michael Fumento on Gulf War
| Open with this:
Insight Magazine is a publication of the Washington Times, and its web policy is odd: you can see the next issue on the web, but the one I just got in the mail is available only through Lexus, a service I don't have. Consequently I can't give you a link to this article about the Gulf War Syndrome that appeared in the April 19, 1999 issue. (A reader found it.)
Like most casual observers I thought that Gulf War Syndrome was another of those syndromes busybodies are always discovering, like the messy room syndrome and some of the other "psychological disorders" that pepper the language of social diseases. Most of these exist as a way to get money out of insurance companies or government agencies, and some of them are plain absurd, such as some of the teen disorders now regularly diagnosed, the symptoms of which are absolutely indistinguishable from the normal behavior of most teen-age boys.
My reasons for dismissing Gulf War Syndrome were:
Comes now INSIGHT's article, from which most of the following is drawn. Let me again emphasize that I am not an organic chemist. I had some graduate courses in physiology as part of my psychology degree program, but that was 40 years ago and more. Although I write science fact and have for twenty-five years been a member of the National Association of Science Writers, I do not usually cover medicine and chemistry. Thus the following is my presentation of other people's materials, and my conclusions are those of a layman. I claim no expertise beyond that of the operations analyst dedicated to scientific method.
In 1997 a biochemist named Pamela Asa theorized that GWS was real -- the evidence was piling up --- and that the cause of GWS was not exposure to chemicals at all but vaccination. Since millions of troops have had the full military vaccination course, this didn't seem reasonable, and the theory was dismissed by the Pentagon. Since this is a long way out of my field of expertise, I paid little attention, or I might have caught the rest of her theory: that for the Gulf War the military did not use the standard vaccination mixture with alum, but instead used an adjuvant. Adjuvants are chemicals that accelerate the production of anti-bodies, and thus make vaccinations "take" much faster.
(Incidentally, I should be using the word "immunization"; "vaccination" is an older term, used by the general public as synonymous with immunization, but in fact referring to a specific kind of immunization. I'll try to use the proper term in future.)
In any event, Dr. Asa theorized that some adjuvant might have been involved. She deduced this because the Gulf War Syndrome patients exhibit many of the symptoms of auto-immune diseases such as lupus. Eventually she narrowed her theory down to squalene. Squalene is a substance the body produces naturally, and is associated with cholesteral. It is known to be a powerful adjuvant. She asked Tulane professor Robert Garry, one of the leading authorities on retrovirology, if he knew of anything to support her theory, which was being ridiculed by the Pentagon.
Apparently she was unaware that Dr. Garry had years before been asked by Johns Hopkins to test a bunch of blood samples from Gulf War Syndrome (GWS in future) patients. Johns Hopkins had been asked to do the tests by Walter Reed Hospital, where the GWO patients were confined -- some of them in isolation AIDS wards. Apparently when severe cases of GWS broke out the military thought these men had AIDS. Johns Hopkins didn't have the expertise to do the AIDS-related virus tests, and sent the blood samples to Garry at Tulane, who found no signs of HIV or anything else related to AIDS. The tests being negative, there was no further use for the blood and Garry was told he could do anything he wanted to with it. He froze it. So when Asa came up with her theory, he was precisely the man to look into it.
He found that all the blood samples contained antibodies to squalene.
Antibodies to natural levels of squalene don't happen. Garry says we'll discover life on Mars before you'll see naturally occurring anti-bodies to squalene. The antibodies only form when the system is hit with extraordinarily high levels. And all the GWS patient blood samples showed the antibodies to squalene, and there was even a rough correlation: the sicker the patient, the higher the level of antibodies.
This is where the matter stands today. Congressman Jack Metcalfe (R. Wash.) of the Veterans Affairs Committee plans to hold hearings on GWS, squalene, and immunizations in the near future.
Now a couple of other lines of thought.
When Asa first published her theory, the official word in Washington DC was that the US government had never had any squalene. It was then discovered that the only manufacturer of squalene was Walter Reed Hospital, and they had made some quantity of it.
The Pentagon's story became, yes, we had some, but we never used it.
It then turns out that the US government is conducting experimental research on AIDS vaccines in Thailand, using squalene as an adjuvant to stimulate rapid antibody development.
The Pentagon's story became "Well, we had some and we have used it, but only after the Gulf War."
It then turns out that it was in experimental use before the Gulf War.
I have not heard the latest official story from the Pentagon; but the track record on reliability is not high.
Asa's theory, which has long been ridiculed, is that with good intentions the military used squalene adjuvant in the Gulf War immunizations; this explains why troops who got the immunizations but never went overseas came down with GWS, as well as why non-combatants got it as well. No one is saying this was any kind of evil plot. If troops are being sent overseas to a disease-ridden environment, one would want their immunizations to work as swiftly and as effectively as possible. No one would have predicted an auto-immune reaction to a substance naturally found in the blood stream. It may even be that the body uses squalene in its anti-body production. (I never heard of this stuff before now, but apparently there are some people touting squalene as a miracle cure or something. I wouldn't know nor care about that.)
There is no direct evidence for Asa's theory. There is the indirect evidence of a massive cover-up; denials, misleading statements, and the utter secrecy of the military's investigation of GWS. Never assume malice where incompetence is an adequate explanation, and military people are often secretive by nature, but the fact is that few of the GWS patients who were sent to the AIDS wards have ever been told the results of the massive studies made of them and their blood. Of course that may be because no one made anything of the studies: after all, Dr. Garry didn't find any common factor when he did his first blood study -- but he was looking for evidence of virus, not squalene anti-bodies.
I intend to follow this story. More when I know more. And if any DOD officials are reading this, understand, I am not anti-military, and I am a very reluctant witch hunter. You're welcome to reply here. But the story has already broken, Congress will look into this, and there are some pretty hefty implications, not merely for public policy, but for understanding auto-immune diseases.
Thanks for the "Head's Up!".
http://www.insightmag.com/investiga/gulf4.html April 19, 1999
http://www.insightmag.com/investiga/gulf3.html Nov 03, 1997
http://www.insightmag.com/investiga/gulf2.html Sept. 08, 1997
http://www.insightmag.com/investiga/gulf1.html Aug. 25, 1997
The Insight article was intriguing and the squalene theory seems plausible. To find more information, I checked for publications from "the peer reviewed research" by Dr. Garry but came up empty. It may have been published since the most recent update to the National Library of Medicine database. You can check for yourself at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/PubMed/.
Another odd point is that you will find no mention of this research on Dr. Garry's web page http://www.tulane.edu/~dmsander/GarryHomePage.html.
I am not doubting the veracity of the Insight article at this point but just note that confirming data are presently unavailable.
Bruce Blumberg, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor Dept of Developmental and Cell Biology
University of California
5207 BioScience II Irvine, CA 92697-2300
Thank you. So that's one data point against the theory. Dr. Huth had much the same experience in his search. Garry of Tulane is known for other work, but if there are publications on this apparently they have not come out yet.
One of the neat things about this Internet business is that it's possible to chase these thngs down quickly. It's easy to publish, but if you care about truth it's also possible to look for confirmations. We'll keep looking.
Here is a link to the GAO report in its entirety - please note that the Adobe Acrobat plug-in, available free of charge from http://www.adobe.com is necessary to view and/or print this document:
I personally find the DoD comments on pp. 23-24 of this report concerning the importance of peer review, controlled testing to ascertain causative relationships, etc. to be quite compelling. Else were back to ergo propter hoc again.
This looks to me like a -possible- avenue of research which mayve been ignored for too long due to bureaucratic inefficiency, rather than some deep, dark DoD conspiracy.
Roland Dobbins <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I don't know anyone who thinks there was a deep dark DOD conspiracy. Why would they? But I certainly can believe in cover ups. Else why the long chain of stories starting with "We never had any" to "well, we used it before the War, but never in the US"? The problem with a disease theory is that it's pretty hard to explain the exposure. The main reason no one, including me, believed there was such a thing as Gulf War Syndrome for so long was the development of cases in the US, and troops never exposed to any chemical agents. Immunizations are a possible cause in that it reaches everyone who developed it. The real question will be whether Garry's results can be duplicated. There are plenty of people who weren't in the original sample; the hypothesis is that they too will have the antibodies. If the don't, that's the end of the theory. Like the Baltimore case, no one is going to settle this by arguing about it. There's certainly grounds for getting more data.
If there's a long bureaucratic move to argue and not get more data, that says one thing. If they just go do the study we'll know one way or another, and fairly soon, since the hypothesis is that the more severe cases will have a heavier antibody count. I don't know what doing the tests would cost, but it can't be that much, compared to what's at stake.
When people in science argue and avoid doing experiments, I get suspicious.
I have come accross many articles linking GWS to Aspartame Poisoning. The symptoms are similar, and could also explain why those not going to the war were affected. Also, there seem to be a growing number of cases diagnosed with similar symptoms that are not called GWS because of the lack of any connecting time/place/occupation factors.
Is the possibility of Aspartame poisoning goofy?
Chris Rosenbury [email@example.com]
Goofy, no, in the sense that any possibility is worth a bit of thought, but it seems very unlikely. Aspartame is certainly a problem to people who are PK intolerant, something between 2% and 5% of the population, with perhaps another unknown percentage having less than perfect tolerance and thus being affected by it. Aspartame, or Blue Death as some call it, can be quite dangerous to those affected by it, but there seems to be no effect whatever on those who aren't. Although there are plenty of anecdotes about memory loss and horrible headaches and such like, I know of no double blind study that shows aspartame having an effect on people who are not PK intolerant.
I'm not familiar with the GWS cases that aren't connected at all with the Gulf War. I don't doubt there are some, but the number isn't known to me. Understand, this is well beyond my area of professional interest other than as a journalist; mostly I want to see fair play for veterans.
My own view is we are never going to settle any of these matters by arguing about them. For the cost of a couple of cruise missiles we could do enough tests to settle these matters in the only possible way, in the laboratory, not on web sites or debate halls. First, though, there has to be the admission that there is something to settle. At least we seem to have got that far, although it took a long time.
May 1999: here is a link to another bit of the puzzle:
May 27, 1999:
Although not specifically regarding the explanation for Gulf War Syndrome mentioned in the article you referred to, you might want to check out an article by Michael Fumento in Reason from a year or two back. He addresses some of the causes that were being proposed at that time (not the vaccine mentioned in the Insight article since that theory is more recent). He looks at some of the people claiming to be suffering from GWS and their symptoms. Lastly, he points out that the studies done by the CDC have shown that Gulf veterans do not suffer from a greater incidence of illness than a similar population of military personnel with the exception of symptoms commonly associated with psychosomatic origins. As Fumento points out, this is not that unreasonable when the press keeps telling you that you were probably exposed to a terrible debilating illness. It is a good article, Fumento does a much better job than I do of explaining it. Given the fact that I think the evidence that there is such a thing as Gulf War Syndrome is weaker than it is commonly been given credit for I am obviously suspicious of the vaccine being a cause. The article can be found at http://www.reasonmag.com/9703/fe.fumento.html and Fumento has his own web site with some more up to date information on this (and some other interesting things) at http://www.fumento.com/ Hope you find this interesting. Allen Phelps