HIV test clue to Gulf veterans' illness

Sick Gulf veterans are increasingly concerned that the cause of their illness may be related to a substance used in experimental inoculations designed to give protection against HIV.

The veterans fear the synthetic compound, traced in former soldiers by American scientists, was given on the orders of defence chiefs to stimulate their immune system to fight off possible chemical and biological attacks.

But instead it may have wreaked havoc with their immune systems, leaving them suffering from the debilitating conditions they are now reporting.

Tests done in American laboratories found the compound squalene to be as prevalent in the blood of sick Gulf veterans as it is among patients involved in HIV-related experiments, where the compound is part of their medication.

Tony Flint, of the National Gulf Veterans and Families Association, said: "Presumably it was intended to boost the immune system but because we had so many drugs pumped into us all at once it seems to have done the complete opposite and broken it all down."

He said he was anxious for British veterans to be subjected to similar blood tests as the Americans.

Before the start of the war, Gulf troops were given a series of vaccinations to protect them from yellow fever, tetanus, typhoid, cholera, hepatitis B, hepatitis A, rabies, anthrax and bubonic plague.

Some soldiers say they received up to 18 injections.

Veterans claim that they still have not been told the contents of all the vaccinations they were given.

They have now written to John Reid, the armed forces minister, to ask whether any personnel were administered squalene.

In its synthetic form, squalene is used as an adjuvant, stimulating the body's immune system when mixed with other vaccines, in order to make those vaccines more effective.

It is not approved for use on humans except in the most experimental official tests designed to find cures for viruses such as HIV or herpes.

One senior American government official told the Washington Times magazine this month: "I can't tell you why [squalene] is there, but there it is. And I can tell you this too, the sicker the individual the higher the level of antibodies for this stuff."

One of the researchers involved in the tests told the magazine: "We found soldiers who never left the United States but who got shots who are sick, and they have squalene in their systems.

"We found people who served overseas in various parts of the desert that are sick who have squalene and we found people who served in the desert but were civilians who never got these shots who are not sick and who do not have squalene."

Pamela Asa, a Tennessee-based immunologist who specialises in auto-immune diseases, has found that some adjuvants can have the side-effect of imbalancing the body's immune system.

She has carried out tests on more than 150 sick veterans, 95 per cent of whom showed positive for synthetic squalene anti-bodies, which were not present in members of the public.

"Why they have squalene when they are not supposed to have been given it I cannot say," she said. "They need some explanation."

The US Defense Department has now admitted that it has squalene in its experimental arsenal, but has denied that it was used in the Gulf.

The vaccine used in HIV experiments consists of HIV envelope - a genetically engineered piece of HIV DNA - along with an adjuvant of squalene and a non-ionic detergent.

In separate tests on Gulf veterans, Garth and Nancy Nicolson, California- based immunologists, have found traces of the HIV envelope.

The envelope does not place the veterans at risk of contracting Aids.

Gulf troops were also exposed to organophosphate pesticide sprays used in an attempt to protect them from desert pests. There are also disputed claims that some soldiers came into contact with chemical weapons, possibly after Allied bombing of Iraqi munitions dumps.

This month Paul Carr, 30, who had been a prominent campaigner on Gulf illness, became the 134th known British veteran to have died since the conflict.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
people Ex-wife of John Lennon has died at her home in Spain
News
Nick Clegg on the campaign trail in Glasgow on Wednesday; he says education is his top priority
peopleNick Clegg remains optimistic despite dismal Lib Dem poll ratings
Life and Style
2 Karl Lagerfeld and Choupette
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
Buttoned up: Ryan Reynolds with Helen Mirren in ‘Woman in Gold’
filmFor every box-office smash in his Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. Now he says it's time for a reboot
News
people
News
Actress Julianne Moore wins the Best Actress in a Leading Role Award for 'Still Alice' during the 87th Annual Academy Awards in Hollywood, California
people
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telemarketing / Sales Co-ordinator - OTE £25,000+

£10000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This provider of staffing and r...

Recruitment Genius: Kitchen Porter

£19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the four inns of Court is seeking...

Recruitment Genius: Chef De Partie

£20000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the four inns of Court i...

Ashdown Group: Graduate IT Support - Surrey - £24,000

£20000 - £24000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Graduate IT Support Helpdesk / 1st L...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

War with Isis

Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

A spring in your step?

Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
10 best compact cameras

A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

Paul Scholes column

Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?