Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Possible Agent for Gulf War Syndrome

Of Two Minds has an excellent post today on a possible agent for Gulf War Syndrome (via The Economist).

Speculation has roamed from blaming the anthrax vaccine that troops received, to depleted-uranium weapons, to intense exposure to pollution from burning oil wells. Now, a provocative article in the Economist suggests that the symptoms may be the result of neurochemical warfare. Specifically, that troops were exposed to acetylcholinesterase inhibitors (AChEis) found in pesticides used to protect the troops from sand flies, in the nerve gas Sarin, and in pyridostigmine bromide pills given to troops as pre-treatment against nerve gas. AChEis prevent the breakdown of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, causing it to remain in the synpase for longer than it should. This causes those neurons to fire excessively, causing abnormal brain and muscle activity as well as possible loss of white matter (myelin).

Dr. Beatrice Golomb, whose theory is currently published in PNAS, points out that severe exposure to AChEis mimics the range of chronic symptoms that many veterans suffering from Gulf War Syndrome report. more...

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