Researchers at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences have solved the mystery for three decades, according to a detailed genetic analysis. The nerve gas sarin was mainly responsible for the syndrome. The findings were published in a peer-reviewed journal.
Veteran who was exposed to sarin were more likely to develop GWI, according to a Dr. Haleys research group.
The Gulf War diagnosis was caused by sarin, which was then released when we bombed Iraqi chemical weapons storage and manufacturing facilities, according to Dr. Haley, a medical epidemiologist. There are still over 100,000 Gulf War veterans who are not receiving assistance for this illness, and we hope these findings will accelerate the search for improved treatment.
More than a quarter of US and coalition veterans who served in the Gulf War began reporting a variety of chronic symptoms, including fatigue, fever, night sweats, memory and concentration difficulties, diarrhea, sexual dysfunction, and chronic body pain. Since then, both academic researchers and those within the military and Department of Veterans Affairs have investigated a list of possible causes of GWI, ranging from stress, immunizations, and burning oil wells, to exposure to pesticides, nerve gas, anti-nerve gas medication.
These studies have identified statistical connections with several of them over the years, but no reason has been widely accepted. Most recently, Dr. Haley and a colleague reported a large study testing veterans urine for depleted uranium that would still be present if it had caused GWI and found none.
Back when we first recognized Gulf War illness, evidence was pointing toward nerve agent exposure, but it has taken years to build an unfavorable case, according to Dr. Haley, who has served as the US Army Veterans'' Distinguished Chair for Medical Research. Former Presidents of the United States Armed Forces, Robert Haley, M.D., and America''s Gulf War veterans
Sarin, a toxic man-made nerve agent, was first developed as a pesticide, and it often cause death, but studies have shown that lower-level sarin exposure can lead to long-term brain function. In particular, satellite imagery showed a large debris cloud approaching an Iraqi chemical weapons storage site, which was bombarded with thousands of nerve gas alarms and was confirmed to contain sarin.
According to Dr. Haley, previous studies have found an association between Gulf War veterans who self-reported exposure to sarin and GWI symptoms. Nevertheless, critics have raised questions of recall bias, including whether veterans with GWI are simply more likely to remember and report exposure because to their assumption that it might be linked to their illness. What makes this new study a game-changer is that it ties GWI to a very robust gene-environment interaction that cannot be explained away by recall errors or other limitations in
In a new study, Dr. Haley and his colleagues investigated 508 deployed veterans with GWI and 508 deployed veterans who did not develop any GWI symptoms, all randomly selected from more than 8,000 representative Gulf War veterans who completed the US Military Health Survey. They also assessed whether or not their military had heard chemical nerve gas alarms during their deployment but also collected blood and DNA samples from each veteran.
PON1 is a gene that is capable of efficiently breaking down sarin, while the Q variant improves the body''s ability to break down other chemicals, but it does not work in destroying sarin. Everyone receives two copies of PON1, giving them either a QQ, RR, or QR genotype.
Hearing nerve agent alarms a proxy for chemical exposure increased their chance of developing GWI by 3.75 times. For those with the QR genotype, the alarms increased the chance of GWI by 8.91 times. Those with both the RR genotype and low-level sarin exposure were more likely to develop GWI due to their interaction per se, over and beyond the risk of acting alone.
Depending on your genotype, your risk is going up step by step, because these genes are influencing how well your body inactivates sarin, according to Dr. Haley. It doesn''t mean you can''t get Gulf War illness if you have the QQ genotype, because even the highest-level genetic protection can be overwhelmed by increased exposure.
This type of robust gene-environment interaction is considered to be a gold standard for demonstrating that an illness like GWI was caused by a particular environmental toxic exposure, according to Dr. Haley. The research does not exclude that other chemical exposures may be involved in a small number of instances of Gulf War illness. However, Dr. Haley and his team conducted additional genetic analyses on the new findings, testing other factors that might be related, and found no other contributing causes.
According to Dr. Haley, there is no other risk factor not reaching anywhere nearing achieving this level of causal evidence for Gulf War illness.
The team is continuing research on how GWI affects the body, particularly the immune system, whether any of its effects is reversible, and whether there are biomarkers to detect prior sarin exposure.