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
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
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: Web Developer - Junior / Mid Weight

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Data Specialist

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are the go-to company for ...

Recruitment Genius: Search Marketing Specialist - PPC / SEO

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join the UK's leadin...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This caravan dealership are currently recruiti...

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test
Tour de France 2015: Twins Simon and Adam Yates have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Twins have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Yates brothers will target the steepest sections in bid to win a stage in France
John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy