Friday, April 13, 2007

New Research To Examine Increased Risk of Multiple Sclerosis Among Veterans

Cases Suggest MS Could be Driven by Environmental Factors
Emerging research has identified a possible increased risk of developing multiple sclerosis (MS) among Gulf War veterans. Data from the Department of Veterans Affairs MS Centers of Excellence and the Department of the Defense will help further investigate the link.

Of veterans with MS who were deployed in the Gulf War, more than 500 have been determined to be a service-connected by the VA. There are likely many unidentified cases. The results of this new study could show progress into the causes of MS, while unveiling another health risk for American veterans, in an environment of increasing concern about post-service care. View the story of one veteran in St. Louis who is living with MS.

“These preliminary data suggest a potential link between military service in the Gulf War and an increased risk of developing MS. We could be one step closer to unlocking the environmental triggers of MS,” Mitch Wallin, MD, MPH, lead investigator on the study, said. “These results are important to the health care of our military veterans and all individuals living with MS. There is a critical need for further research.”
Dr. Wallin is Associate Professor of Neurology at Georgetown University School of Medicine and Associate Director of Clinical Care at the VA MS Center of Excellence-East in Baltimore.

Recent empirical evidence also shows an increase of MS right after the Gulf War among Kuwaitis. These data suggest that the cases of MS are, at least in part, being driven by environmental factors. Gulf War veterans who served in the combat theater were exposed to a number of environmental agents including multiple vaccinations, viral and parasitic organisms, smoke from oil well fires, and more. Despite several decades of research, MS and its causes still are not fully understood, and there is no cure.

Overall federal funding for MS research has declined in recent years. However, Congress currently is looking at a possible $15 million appropriation into Department of Defense research that could help further explore the causes of MS.

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