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Iraq war service: A risk factor for bronchiolitis?
Date:5/21/2008

ATS 2008, TORONTOA large group of soldiers returning from Iraq have been diagnosed with bronchiolitis, a disease affecting the small airways of the lung, according to Vanderbilt University Medical Center physicians who will present their findings at the American Thoracic Societys 2008 International Conference in Toronto on Wednesday, May 21.

A total of 56 soldiers from Fort Campbell, Kentucky were evaluated for unexplained shortness of breath on exertion. Surgical lung biopsies were performed on 31 of the soldiers referred, with 29 having bronchiolitis. Most of those diagnosed with bronchiolitis had a prolonged exposure to sulfur dioxide from a sulfur mine fire near Mosul, Iraq in 2003, however, several had no known specific exposures.

The soldiers were initially evaluated with chest x-rays and computerized tomography, which were normal in almost every case. Likewise, pulmonary function tests were usually normal or near-normal. Thoracoscopic lung biopsies were required to conclusively establish the diagnosis of bronchiolitis in every case.

All of the soldiers evaluated were physically fit at the time of deployment. On return, none of those diagnosed with bronchiolitis met physical training standards. In almost every case they were declared unfit for duty and were medically boarded with a service connected disability, said principle investigator of the research, Robert Miller, M.D., assistant professor of pulmonary and critical care medicine at Vanderbilt University.

The U.S. Department of Defense believes that the Mosul sulfur fire was deliberately set and considers it a combat-related event. It was the largest ever man-made release of sulfur dioxide and was 100 times greater than the release from the Mount Saint Helens volcanic eruption. Air samples collected by the U.S. Army confirmed that sulfur dioxide levels in the area were at toxic levels, said Dr. Miller.

The researchers were not surprised that such a high sulfur dioxide exposure
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Contact: Keely Savoie
ksavoie@thoracic.org
212-315-8620
American Thoracic Society
Source:Eurekalert

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