Gulf War related illness - man-made mycoplasmas

Ian A. York york at
Sun Oct 1 11:43:45 EST 1995

In article <44l8ec$86n at>,
Dr. Hans J. Kugler <h.kugler at> wrote:

>   They have worked with Gulf War veterans and developed a treatment;
>JAMA, 273; 618-19,1995. Found genetically altered mycoplasmas as the
>cause of GWS.

Just to clarify a little bit: the JAMA reference here is *not* to an 
article but is rather to a letter to the editor - i.e. it is not 
peer-reviewed.  Moreover, the letter includes no relevant references and 
includes no experimental information.  According to the letter, the 
'evidence' for a role for mycoplasma in gulf war syndrome is "of the 73 
Desert Storm veterans who had the symptoms listed in the report and with 
whom we spoke by phone or contacted by letter, approximately 55 indicated 
that they had good responses with doxycycline and eventually returned to 
good health."  

The letter certainly says nothing about "genetically altered 

A look through Medline shows no articles on mycoplasma by G.L. Nicholson,
nor any articles with the words "gulf war" or "desert storm"  by G.L.
Nicholson.  Nicholson is apparently not a clinician and is assciated with
the U. of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.  The only paper in Medline by
G.L. Nicholson is on the role of urokinase-type plasminogen activator
receptor in brain tumours; Nicholson was the fifth author, out of six, on
this review.  (There may be three older papers - from 1974, 1977, and
1986: the affiliation of that Nicholson is not clear.) The other author of
the letter is from N.L. Rosenberg-Nicholson, presumably his wife (as the
letter mentions "our stepdaughter"), who is also a PhD rather than a
clinician and who is associated with the Rhoden Foundation for Biomedical
Research: all her publication are on nucleosomes and nucleoprotein

I have no particular interest in Gulf War syndrome, but citing this 
letter as support for a role of mycoplasma in it damages your 
credibilty.  If you are serious in your concern, you'd be better off 
reporting nothing than misreporting like this.

Finally, here is the reply to Nicholson's letter, written by Gareth M. 
Green, MD, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston MA.  The results of the
Workshop he mentions are reported in JAMA 1994;272:391-396: 

	The NIH Technology Assessment Workshop "The Persian Gulf 
	Experience and Health" evaluated published scientific 
	literature, progress of ongoing studies reported by the 
	responsible investigators, and the testimony of afflicted 
	veterans.  The panel concluded that unexplained illness
	seemed real, was not definable as a single clinical entity 
	with the information available, and most probably was not 
	caused by a single agent but rather represented multiple 
	overlapping etiologies.  The suggestion by Drs Nicholson and 
	Rosenberg-Nicholson of a mycoplasmal origin seems plausible 
	for some of these illnesses but should be confirmed by rigorous
	clinical investigation.  Of course, the customary principles 
	of sound medical management require individual patient diagnosis 
	before prescription of treatment, especially with drugs effective 
	against other unrecognized microorganisms. 

Ian York   (york at
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, 44 Binney St., Boston MA 02115
Phone (617)-632-3921     Fax  (617)-632-2627

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