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Researchers probe geographical ties to ALS cases among 1991 Gulf War veterans
Date:7/21/2008

DURHAM, N.C. -- Researchers from Duke University, the University of Cincinnati (UC) and the Durham Veterans Administration Medical Center are hoping to find a geographical pattern to help explain why 1991 Gulf War veterans contracted the fatal neurological disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) at twice the normal rate during the decade after the conflict.

By layering military records of troop locations onto Gulf-area maps, "we've found there were some areas of service where there appears to be an elevated risk," said Marie Lynn Miranda, an associate professor at Duke's Nicholas School of the Environment whose group uses geographic information systems (GIS) to study environmental health problems.

Also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease because it crippled and ultimately killed that baseball great in 1941, ALS causes cellular degeneration in the central nervous system. Its cause is unknown.

"There are no reports on the occurrence of ALS among veterans of other conflicts," the researchers wrote. "There is only a single report that suggests ALS may arise from environmental exposures associated with military service, per se." The cases assessed by Miranda and her colleagues occurred within a group of people who are expected to be at low risk for ALS, because they're mostly under the age of 45.

Miranda is the first author of a report on an initial analysis now published online in the research journal NeuroToxicology. The work was funded by the Department of Veterans Affairs Cooperative Studies Program.

The report's senior author is Ronnie Horner, professor and director of the department of public health at Cincinnati, who led research that first documented twice-normal ALS rates among vets of the first Persian Gulf War in an article published in the September 2003 issue of the journal Neurology.

Horner's group is now assessing possible exposures vets might have had in the Gulf region that could explain the hig
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Contact: Monte Basgall
monte.basgall@duke.edu
919-681-8057
Duke University
Source:Eurekalert

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