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New study will explore Gulf War Illness

U.S. Marines assigned to the 2nd Marine Division's Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, move out on a mission after disembarking from a CH-46E Sea Knight helicopter during Exercise Imminent Thunder, part of Operation Desert Shield. Photo: Air Force Tech. Sgt. H. H. Deffner

Washington — The National Institutes of Health and the Department of Veterans Affairs will partner on a study they hope “will lead to many answers to those suffering from Gulf War Illness.” 

Chronic symptoms of the illness – which affects about 700,000 servicemen and women who took part in Desert Storm and Desert Shield – include headache, fatigue, memory problems, joint and muscle pain, poor sleep, and gastrointestinal and respiratory issues. 

The study, expected to take five years, began initial enrollment in July 2022, focusing on veterans who were enrolled in other studies. Researchers are now opening enrollment to a wider group. Screenings for 1990-1991 Gulf War veterans will take place in Miami, California and the nation’s capital.

“Potential study participants will be referred to NIH to gain more insight into Gulf War Illness. Researchers from NIH will seek to identify how the illness presents itself – in ways that can be measured or observed – in each participant. The research will focus on the immune and autonomic nervous systems, as well as the body’s energy-production pathways,” a press release states.

Eligible veterans will be invited to the NIH Clinical Center for up to two weeks of comprehensive tests. Researchers will keep data on participants, supervise veterans’ experience during the study and communicate individual findings to VA care providers “as appropriate.”

Dr. Walter Koroshetz is director of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, which is part of NIH. “Taking advantage of the resources available only at NIH, this comprehensive study will take a new look at this illness and uncover biological mechanisms that may pave the way to treatments,” Koroshetz said in the release.

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