Two studies find Gulf War veterans have increased risk of ALS

ST. PAUL, MN New research finds that veterans of the 1991 Gulf War have developed ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) at approximately twice the rate of the general population, according to two studies in the September 23 issue of Neurology, the scientific journal of the American Academy of Neurology. An editorial in the same issue questions the validity of the results.

The studies used different methods yet arrived at similar results.

One study sought to identify all occurrences of ALS in the military after the start of the Gulf War, and found that those deployed to Southwest Asia (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and other Arab Emirates, Turkey, or on the Red Sea) experienced almost twice the risk of ALS than those who were not deployed. Out of nearly 2.5 million military personnel, researchers verified 107 cases of ALS (40 deployed and 67 non-deployed). The total deployed population (696,118) was less than half the total non-deployed population (1,786,215).

"This study addressed the question, 'Is there a problem with excessive occurrence of ALS among Gulf War veterans?'," said lead study author Ronnie D. Horner, PhD, of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. "We found the answer to be yes."

Among deployed military, Army and Air Force personnel appeared to have a significantly higher risk than the other service branches, but all branches had an elevated risk. As a cross-check of the findings, the data were also evaluated under numerous "what-if" scenarios. The consistency of the findings gave the investigators the confidence to conclude that veterans of the 1991 Gulf War have a higher than expected risk of ALS, according to Horner.

The second study concentrated on age and found that the rate of ALS in young Gulf War veterans was more than two times greater than in the general population. Out of approximately 690,000 Gulf War veterans, 20 ALS cases were confirmed, 17 of whom were diagnosed before age 45. All of the

Contact: Marilee Reu
American Academy of Neurology

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