Note: Dr. Simon Wessely, a professor of psychological (psychosomatic)
medicine has long championed the psychosomatic explanation for GWS as well
as other diseases with similar core symptoms. Former head of the CDC CFS
Research Program, Dr. Bill Reeves also did studies in the '90s attempting to
prove GWS was "not real." Gulf War Syndrome real, Institute of Medicine
By Janet Raloff
(Science News) - Hundreds of thousands of U.S. veterans who claim to suffer
from Gulf War Syndrome just received powerful new ammunition against
arguments that their symptoms are trivial, if not altogether fictional. On
April 9, the Institute of Medicine – the health arm of the National Academy
of Sciences – issued a report that concludes military service in the Persian
Gulf War has not only been a cause of post-traumatic stress disorder in some
veterans but also is "associated with multisymptom illness."
That multisymptom illness is IOM's moniker for what the vets refer to as
Gulf War Syndrome.
"It is clear that a significant portion of the soldiers deployed to the Gulf
War have experienced troubling constellations of symptoms that are difficult
to categorize," according to neuroscientist Stephen L.
University of California, San Francisco. He chaired the IOM committee
that issued the new report.
"Unfortunately," Hauser said, "symptoms that cannot be easily quantified are sometimes incorrectly dismissed as insignificant and receive inadequate
attention and funding by the medical and scientific establishment. Veterans
who continue to suffer from these symptoms deserve the very best that modern
science and medicine can offer to speed the development of effective
treatments, cures, and – we hope – prevention."
The new report argues that medicine's trouble in defining the nature or
precise cause(s) of Gulf War Syndrome does not negate its existence. Indeed,
the IOM's new analysis "began with the premise that multisymptom illness is
a diagnostic entity." Its analysis then investigated evidence to determine
whether a link exists between multiple, unexplained symptoms and Gulf War
And IOM's report now concludes that Gulf War Syndrome is real, based on data
documenting a high rate of symptoms in former U.S. troops who had served in
the Gulf War nearly two decades ago. High-quality surveys of Gulf War vets
from other nations, such as the United Kingdom and Australia, show many of
those men also have been suffering similar chronic symptoms, which could
include everything from gastrointestinal illness and mental confusion, to
attacks of sudden vertigo, intense uncontrollable mood swings, fatigue and
sometimes numbness – or the opposite, constant body pain.
Last month, a team of researchers headed by Robert Haley of the University
of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas
brain-imaging confirmation of Gulf War illnesses, which it described
a trio of syndromes with puzzling symptoms.
Like the UT Southwestern scientists, the IOM committee could not pin down
the source of the vets' symptoms. Equally puzzling was why some troops
sustained major chronic illness after a short tour of duty while others from
their military units incurred no such symptoms after many years in the
field. Indeed, it may prove difficult – if not impossible – to reconstruct
what happened nearly 20 years after the fact, the IOM committee noted.
But there's certainly a suspicion, it said, that multisymptom Gulf War
Syndrome(s) may reflect interactions between environmental exposures and
genes, such that genetics predisposed many troops to illness. IOM now
recommends that research commence immediately to investigate that genetics
angle. And there should be a big enough population to study this in, IOM
says, with more than one-third of the 700,000 Gulf War vets claiming
multisymptom illnesses associated with their military service.
The report also calls for a substantial commitment to improve identification
and treatment of multisymptom illness in Gulf War veterans. That would, of
course, first require that the Department of Veterans Affairs acknowledge
these syndromes as real disease.