UC research shows risk of ALS exposure in Gulf War veterans is time limited

June 06, 2008

CINCINNATI--A new study, led by researchers at the University of Cincinnati (UC), says that cases of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) among soldiers who served in the first Persian Gulf War were caused by certain events during their deployment to the war zone, meaning the exposure and illness is not as widespread as previously thought.

The study is being published in the July issue of Neuroepidemiology.

Ronnie Horner, PhD, lead author of the study, along with colleagues at Duke University Medical Center found that among the 124 cases of ALS studied, 48 occurred within those soldiers deployed to the Persian Gulf region.

Horner says most of the deployed soldiers who developed ALS had disease onset in 1996 or earlier.

"The outbreak was time-limited," he continues. "We actually saw a declining risk after 1996; therefore, the risk is not continual. The pattern of disease onset suggests that whatever exposure occurred among these soldiers most likely happened sometime between August 1990 and July 1991, the period of the first Gulf War."

ALS is a fatal neurological disease caused by the degeneration of nerve cells in the central nervous system that control voluntary muscle movement. It is commonly known as Lou Gehrig's Disease after the baseball Hall of Famer who died of it in 1941.

Horner, director for the Institute for the Study of Health at UC, says it is an illness that usually affects people in their 60s and 70s.

"When it started occurring in veterans in their 30s and 40s--a low-risk population--researchers knew that something had occurred during that conflict to cause these affects."

The recent study builds on research published in 2003 that showed there was a two-fold increased risk of ALS among 1991 Gulf War veterans.

To gather this information, researchers screened medical files at Veteran Affairs and Department of Defense hospitals nationwide in search of patients with ALS or other motor neuron diseases. They also advertised a toll-free telephone number for Gulf War veterans to call if they had been diagnosed with ALS.

After identifying patients, the investigators verified their illness through medical record review or medical examination by neurologists who were experts in ALS.

The study indicated that these veterans had a higher-than-expected risk of ALS but did not answer whether the risk had diminished over time or what had caused the risk.

Now, researchers at Duke, Durham Veterans Affairs Medical Center and UC are taking it a step further and are conducting studies to find possible exposures these veterans had while deployed to the Persian Gulf area that may be the cause of the outbreak.

"We want to find out if there are specific areas where the soldiers moved through," Horner says. In addition, he says researchers are looking at the contributions of specific incidents--for example, the demolition of the munitions dump at Khamisiyah, Iraq, that released a low level of nerve agent, and smoke from the oil well fires--to the heightened risk of the disease in soldiers.

"With this information, we may be able to discover what caused the ALS outbreak and hopefully prevent similar instances from occurring in the future," Horner says.
-end-
Other researchers involved in the study include Steven Grambow, PhD, Cynthia Coffman, PhD, Jennifer Lindquist, Eugene Oddone, MD, and Kelli Allen, PhD, all from the Durham VA Medical Center and Duke University Medical Center, and Edward Kasarskis, MD, PhD, from the Lexington VA Medical Center and University of Kentucky, Lexington.

This study was funded in part by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs and the Department of Defense.

University of Cincinnati

Related Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Articles from Brightsurf:

Converting lateral scanning into axial focusing to speed up 3D microscopy
In optical microscopy, high-speed volumetric imaging is limited by either the slow axial scanning rate or aberrations introduced by the z-scanning mechanism.

Ammonium triggers formation of lateral roots
Despite the importance of changes in root architecture to exploit local nutrient patches, mechanisms integrating external nutrient signals into the root developmental program remain poorly understood.

'Reelin' in a new treatment for multiple sclerosis
In an animal model of multiple sclerosis (MS), decreasing the amount of a protein made in the liver significantly protected against development of the disease's characteristic symptoms and promoted recovery in symptomatic animals, UTSW scientists report.

Adjustable lordotic expandable vs static lateral lumbar interbody fusion devices
The objective of this study is to compare the clinical and radiographic outcomes between patients treated with static and expandable interbody spacers with adjustable lordosis for MIS LLIF.

Chirality-assisted lateral momentum transfer for bidirectional enantioselective separation
Chiral nanoparticles which twist the light were theoretically predicted to experience lateral forces perpendicular to light vector but lacks experimental verification.

Not all multiple sclerosis-like diseases are alike
Scientists say some myelin-damaging disorders have a distinctive pathology that groups them into a unique disease entity.

Researchers delay onset of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in laboratory models
Scientists have delayed the onset of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in laboratory models, leaving them cautiously optimistic that the result, combined with other clinical advances, points to a potential treatment for ALS in humans.

Emerging role of adenosine in brain disorders and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
The role of adenosine in neurodegeneration and neuroregeneration has led to growing attention on adenosine receptors as potential drug targets in a range of brain disorders, including neuroregenerative therapy and treatment for amyotrophyic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

New clues about the origins of familial forms of Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
A Brazilian study made important progress in understanding the accumulation of one of the proteins involved in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

Recrutement of a lateral root developmental pathway into root nodule formation of legumes
Peas and other legumes develop spherical or cylindrical structures -- called nodules -- in their roots to establish a mutually beneficial relationship with bacteria that convert atmospheric nitrogen into a useable nutrient for the legume plant.

Read More: Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis News and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.