View Full Version : Gulf War Vets, Lou Gehrig's Disease

10-23-02, 06:46 AM
October 15, 2002 05:47 PM ET

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - A new study suggests that veterans who served in
the Persian Gulf region during the Gulf War are at greater risk for
amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig's disease, than veterans
not deployed to this region.

The study, funded by the US Department of Veteran's Affairs, was presented
here Tuesday by Dr. Edward J. Kasarskis at the American Neurological
Association's 127th annual meeting.

However, some experts said the jury is still out on whether or not there is a

Commenting on the study Dr. Daniel Drachman, a neurologist at Johns Hopkins
University in Baltimore, Maryland, said "the data are not sufficiently clear
to convince me that there is a true effect."

According to Kasarskis, who is with the University of Kentucky and the
Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center in Lexington, the findings suggest that
there might be some, as yet unidentified, occupational or environmental
exposure that increased the soldiers' risk for ALS, a degenerative
neurological disease that ends in paralysis and death.

"It is really still unknown, but that is the discussion that this study
raises," Kasarskis told Reuters Health.

In their investigation, the team of researchers sought military personnel who
served during the Gulf War and developed ALS. Patients were located in a
number of different ways, including through patient clinics at VA hospitals
and through public outreach on the Internet or by mass mailings.

In all, they received 516 responses. Of this group 122 cases were screened
and found eligible. Kasarskis reported that 107 of this group were verified
as having ALS. However, he noted that this group represented both deployed
and non-deployed service personnel, and that he was not at liberty to reveal
exactly how many in this group actually served in the Gulf War region during
the war because the report was still under review.

After comparing these patients to the number of ALS cases seen in veterans
who did not serve in the Gulf War, the researchers concluded that Gulf War
vets are about twice as likely to develop the disease as others in the

Among service branches, according to Kasarskis, the elevation for ALS was
greatest among Air Force personnel who were deployed to the Persian Gulf
during the Gulf War and lowest in the Marines. He could offer no explanation
for this particular finding.

Drachman said the overall data do not show that the servicemen who were in
the Gulf War had a significantly higher risk of ALS. The statistical analysis
revealed that that there is a less than 95% probability that those who were
deployed had higher incidence of ALS, he pointed out.

The bottom line is that it is still unclear whether military personnel who
served in the Gulf War region have a higher risk of ALS, according to
Drachman, who noted that the findings of the present study are "up in the