Friday, September 24, 1999

Gulf War vets sought for medical study




BY JAMES HANNAH
The Associated Press

        DAYTON, Ohio — An Ohio hospital will participate in the first large-scale study of possible treatments for Gulf War veterans suffering unexplained illnesses, officials said Thursday.

        The Dayton VA Medical Center is among 30 U.S. sites selected to test an antibiotic and among 20 sites to evaluate exercise and another nondrug therapy.

        It's part of a $20 million effort by the Defense Department and Department of Veterans Affairs to explore ways to improve the health of Gulf War veterans.

        About 700,000 men and women served in the war. An estimated 2 percent of them have reported symptoms that have eluded traditional medical explanation, including chronic fatigue, joint pain and memory loss.

        Many are convinced their illnesses may be related to toxins or other chemical or environmental factors.

        One study will focus on exercise and techniques for reducing the severity of the symptoms. The government is seeking 1,350 volunteers.

        The other study will test whether the antibiotic doxycycline improves the health of veterans infected with the microorganism Mycoplasma, which some think may be causing the ailments. A total of 450 volunteers are being sought.

        Dr. John Feussner, the department's chief research and development officer, said the volunteers will be treated by the antibiotic for about a year.

        “If this treatment were to work, that would be quite remarkable,” he said. “The possibility is the patient would be cured.”

        Denver Combs, director of the Montgomery County Veterans Service Center, said volunteers may be hard to find.

        He said even though many Gulf War veterans are suffering fatigue, muscle aches, headaches and hair loss, they are distrustful of the government.

        Susan Getz, a nurse on a Navy hospital ship in the Persian Gulf in 1991, said she will not volunteer because she doesn't want to be a guinea pig.

        Ms. Getz returned from the gulf with a sore throat, and since then has suffered severe headaches, swelling of the joints, respiratory problems, stomach ulcers and fatigue.

        Veterans interested in volunteering can call (888) 838-6446.

       



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