Two potential treatments for Gulf War syndrome are being tested at military and veterans’ clinics in studies sponsored by the Defense Department and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.
An $8 million study of the antibiotic doxycycline got under way in April at 30 military clinics across the country. As many as 1,000 veterans are expected to participate. This trial will test the theory developed by Dr. Garth Nicolson, of the Institute for Molecular Medicine in Huntington Beach, Calif., that tiny organisms called mycoplasmas are responsible for the illness and that doxycycline is effective against them. An estimated 100,000 of the 700,000 Gulf War troops report extreme fatigue, joint and muscle pain, concentration and memory problems, rashes, fever, diarrhea and other symptoms that have become known as Gulf War syndrome. Dr. Nicolson has found mycoplasmas in CFIDS and fibromyalgia patients, as well as in sick Gulf War veterans, and he believes the organisms may play a role in a variety of chronic illnesses.
Another $12 million study will test the effectiveness of exercise and behavior therapy in reducing the symptoms experienced by the Gulf War veterans. This trial is based in part on the theory that stress plays a key role in causing and perpetuating the symptoms. Results of the two studies are not expected for more than a year.