NIH, VA Launch Study of Gulf War Illness
NIH and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) have launched a study to gain a better understanding of the chronic symptoms of Gulf War Illness.
The disease affects multiple systems in the body. Chronic symptoms include fatigue, headache, memory and cognitive difficulties, joint and muscle pain, poor sleep, and problems with gastrointestinal and respiratory function. It affects about a third of the nearly 700,000 individuals who served in operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm in the early 1990s.
“This is an important collaboration that we hope will lead to many answers to those suffering from Gulf War Illness,” said NINDS Director Dr. Walter Koroshetz. “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.”
Researchers led by NINDS principal investigator Dr. Brian Walitt 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. Walitt is head of the interoceptive disorders unit of the Clinical Neurosciences Program in NINDS’s Division of Intramural Research.
“Effective treatments for Gulf War Illness have remained elusive, forcing healthcare providers to mostly focus on easing patient symptoms,” said Dr. Rachel Ramoni, VA’s chief research and development officer. “VA and NIH’s collaboration will bring together experts who will meticulously investigate the underlying causes of symptoms. With the help of the veterans who volunteer for the study, researchers will lay the groundwork for care that will meaningfully improve the lives of the hundreds of thousands of veterans living with Gulf War Illness.”
The study is expected to last five years. Initial enrollment began in July 2022 and focused on Gulf War veterans who were enrolled in other studies. Enrollment is now open to those from the larger Gulf War veteran community. The first participant arrived at the Clinical Center on Apr. 16.
For more information about the study, visit: https://research.ninds.nih.gov/patients/va-nih-project-depth.