- A synthetic chemical compound used in
cutting-edge experimental inoculations against HIV has been discovered
in the blood of some ailing Gulf war veterans, according to Insight magazine.
- Pentagon and U.S. government medical
authorities say no such such inoculations were administered during the
Gulf war but offer no explanation for the presence of the compound called
squalene in blood samples of hundreds of Gulf war veterans who claim to
suffer from so-called Gulf war syndrome.
- But these veterans, representing a cross-section
of the uniformed services, including those who served overseas and those
who never left the United States, say -- Continued from Front Page -- they
were given unspecified or secret vaccinations.
- Adding to the mystery is the inexplicable
disappearance of as many as 700,000 service-related immunization records.
- The new information about squalene, an
adjuvant compound used to boost the effects of immunizations, comes from
a four-monthinvestigation into the origins of Gulf war illnesses by Insight,
which is published by The Washington Times Corp.
- Antibodies for this synthetic squalene
were discovered in laboratory tests on hundreds of blood samples taken
from Gulf war soldiers, some who became sick after the conflict and others
who have not.
- These laboratory results, some of which
have been separately reconfirmed (tests are continuing), show unusually
high antibody levels for squalene, which should not show up in such tests.
- Squalene as an adjuvant is a synthetic
polymer that stimulates the body's immune responses when mixed with vaccines
to make medications more effective. It is not approved for human use except
in the most experimental tests overseen by the government in research on
cures for illnesses, such as HIV and herpes.
- Government officials say emphatically
that no experimental HIV immunization tests were conducted on the general
military population. However, they say such tests have been conducted by
military- and government-backed research laboratories on human volunteers.
The tests have not been publicized but have been conducted over a period
of several years.
- Spokesmen from the Veterans Affairs Department,
the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Defense say they
are unable to explain when asked why squalene shows up in the blood of
sick soldiers who have been, or decline to answer questions about the phenomenon.
- Timothy Gerrity, a senior official at
the VA and the only top official investigating Gulf war illnesses willing
to talk on the record, told Insight magazine he "would be surprised"
to find out that squalene is in the bloodstreams of ill soldiers. All vaccinations
administered to Gulf war soldiers are publicly known, he says, and that
no experimental drugs involving HIV or other immuno-stimulants were given
to U.S. troops.
- Mr. Gerrity says that if the trial tests
showing squalene are confirmed, the government will investigate.
- Congressional oversight panels, including
the Senate and House Veterans Affairs committees, also plan to investigate
the squalene revelations and redouble efforts to find still-missing immunization
records for hundreds of thousands of veterans.
- Except for work with a few cutting-edge
pharmaceuticals --and then only with approval from federal authorities
-- only government agencies are involved in human experimental tests using
adjuvants. Agencies authorized to conduct human experiments include the
NIH Infectious Diseases and Allergy Center and the Walter Reed Army Medical
- The NIH and Walter Reed facilities have
been experimenting since at least the late 1980s with immunizations that
could be effective against the HIV virus, which causes AIDS. Typically,
the experimental "immunizations" are mixed with adjuvants --
like squalene or alum -- to provide a boost to experimental vaccines. Alum
is the only U.S.-approved adjuvant for general human use in a variety of
vaccines and immunizations.
- "I want to know how squalene, an
adjuvant that's not supposed to be in these vets, got into these vets,"
says a leading medical specialist who studied lab results on blood samples
taken from Gulf war personnel.
- These tests, conducted at two prestigious
laboratories that prefer not to be identified until further standardized
double-blind testing is completed, surveyed fresh blood samples of 200
soldiers and another 200 blood samples drawn two to three years ago by
the Defense Department from sick Gulf war veterans. The older blood samples
were taken for unrelated tests.
- In nearly three-quarters of the blood
from both testing pools, tests showed positive for squalene antibodies.
- The test results were similar to those
from experimental test subjects in experimental HIV and sexually transmitted
disease studies at the NIH. In these cases, the medications they received
- How then, the reasearchers want to know,
did the tested Gulf war soldiers get antibodies for an adjuvant whose only
known use is experimental?
- "We have found soldiers who are
not sick that do not have the antibodies," says one of the independent
laboratory scientists hired by Insight. "We found soldiers who never
left the United States but who got shots who are sick, and they have squalene
in their systems. We found people who served overseas in various parts
of the desert that are sick who have squalene. And we found people who
served in the desert but were civilians who never got these shots [administered
by the federal government] who are not sick and do not have squalene."
- In short, says a senior government official
familiar with the new blood tests, "I can't tell you why it's there,
but there it is. And I can tell you this, too: the sicker an individual,
the higher the level of antibodies for this [squalene] stuff."
- Says a high-level Defense Department
official also familiar with the tests: "I'm not telling you that squalene
is making these people sick, but I am telling you that the sick ones have
it in them. It's probably whatever was used [mixed] with the squalene that's
doing it, or in combination with the squalene. You find that, and you
may be on to something."
- Theories about adjuvants were first advanced
about two years ago by Pamela Asa, a Tennessee immunologist who specializes
in auto-immune diseases and symptomatology. Military and civilian government
authorities dismissed her charges at the time.
- Air Force Col. Ed Koenigsberg, director
of the Pentagon's Persian Gulf war Veterans' Illness Investigation Team,
testified before the President's Advisory Committee on Persian Gulf Veterans
Disease in October 1995 that theories such as Dr. Asa's were not plausible
because no adjuvant other than aluminum adjuvants (alum) had been used
on U.S. soldiers, and no secret immunizations were administered.
- However, the military did commission
a study of so-called "adjuvants disease" and possible unknown
immunizations that may have been given Gulf war soldiers.
- The study, prepared by the U.S. Army
Medical Research and Materiel Command and released in March 1996, concluded
that the only vaccines and immunizations administered to soldiers were
publicly known and were alum-based and that nothing but alum was used as
- But as the General Accounting Office
noted in a recently concluded study: "Six years after the war, little
is conclusively known about the causes of Gulf war veterans' illnesses.
- "None of the comments we received
provide evidence to challenge our principal findings and conclusions that
(1) DoD and VA have no means to systematically determine whether symptomatic
Gulf war veterans are better or worse today than when they were first examined
and (2) ongoing epidemiological research will not provide precise, accurate,
and conclusive answers regarding the causes of the Gulf war veterans' illnesses."
- The only way, according to the GAO, for
the government to begin finding out what's wrong with Gulf war veterans
is to begin a comprehensive study of the patients, including high-tech
laboratory work to explain, among other things, the presence of antibodies